Ray Doyle slid off the slipwalk with the careless ease of a man who had ridden the city 'walks all his life. Considering his mood, it was extremely fortunate he had developed the ability to exit the line without thought. His eyes were open, but he did not see. Hunching his shoulders, he strode off down the ramp. He was a good Pro, and even while he was absorbed in his own misery, he still was aware of the crowd around him. Everyone seemed to be following the laws, moving in and out of the buildings in orderly fashion.
Once out of the line himself, Doyle strode along at a good pace. He had exited two sections before destination, unable to project the neutral face which good manners suggested be worn by those pressed close to others on the slipwalks. Ray Doyle was mad, he was hurt, he was confused, he was filled with black energy, and he wanted nothing to do with his fellow man, and even less to do with the female of the species.
How could she do that? As he moved along the treeway Doyle conjured up Ann's face as he had seen it last. Her hair wrapped up in a fashionable turban, her high cheekbones and pouting lips highlighted in glittering face paint, and wearing her best tunic, she had met him at the door to her flat and told him the bad news. She had not softened it, or let him down easily, nor had she invited him in where he would have had privacy to react to her impossible news. She had stood in the doorway, blocking him from her home as she said the words which locked him out of her life. At least she had not kept him in suspense. She had said it at once.
"I can't marry you," she said, using the old fashioned word. Her way of speaking had always entranced him; she had the vocabulary of a Higher.
He had misunderstood at first. "Is it a client?" he asked. "I'll wait," he said. But she did not step aside, or even look at him.
"No, it's not a client." Ann worked at a cultural center, matching clients with art and literature. Doyle had a framed bit of poetry on his own wall which had attracted him strongly the moment Ann had shown it to him. She was good at her job. He was thinking about her job as she spoke. He didn't want to hear what she was saying.
"I did not go." she said it flatly, quickly, without looking at him, and, her hands curled as if she were trying to hold onto something--or crush it.
"You didn't go? To the Civil office? But we don't have much time! The shuttle leaves for Mars in only six hours!" Running a hand through his brown curls, Doyle stared at his fiancee with wide eyes. He noticed as she bit her lip, and as a natural color flooded her cheeks. She was emotionally upset, he realized, but maintaining the appearance of control. Just as if he were some stranger on the 'walk, and not the man she had agreed to match!
"I...couldn't go. Please understand, Ray! I didn't sleep at all last night, thinking about it. We're no match, Ray, you must see it!"
"Pre-match jitters?" he said kindly, reaching forward to pull her into a kiss, despite being in the corridor. Her shoulders were stiff under his hands and she stepped back.
"No. It's not just nervousness. I didn't get the form, Ray, because it would not have been right. We don't have the same background, the same interests. I wish I had discovered this before, I feel quite bad about it. What we had together was so marvelous, I wasn't able to see how things really were."
Translation. Her father had influenced her. Convinced her that she could do better than match with a lowly Pro, even one who had reached Level 5. Her father had been the only reservation Ray himself had to the match. His nose told him the older member of the Holly family was not a respecter of laws. Perhaps even one of the uncaught. But his daughter was unlike him, bright and honest and fun to be with, and so he had ignored his instincts. Oh Ann! His Ann!
"Ann..." he said, her name echoing in his head. "Ann, I filed a permit. It was all agreed weeks ago, and we had the announcement party...."
"I am sorry, Ray! Truly, I didn't intend to mislead you! I think you are a fine man, and a wonderful lover! But I need more!"
More. "More?" Ray was still in the corridor, she had not moved aside, so he was forced to keep the polite face on and his voice low, even though he wanted to shout at her.
"Oh, let's not go into it, Ray! Let us not part harshly! I can't match with you!"
"Ann...." even as he said her name she was stepping back, the door was shutting. "Ann!" He pressed the panel spot again and again, but she did not answer the door. Eventually he stopped trying, and leaned against the wall. Her corridor panel was done in Summer Sun pattern, the lovely colors melting into each other, blending and separating in a slow coil. He knew he could never see that pattern again without thinking of her, and of this sick feeling inside him.
Eventually he left, walking down the corridors for hours, and then going up to the treeways and walking in the open air while trying to sort himself out. He thought of going home, but all his friends lived on his corridor, everyone knew he was to match today and leave on his honeymoon trip. Mars. Ray hadn't had any desire to see Mars, but it was 'the' place to go on a wedding trip this year. He had wiped out half his savings to pay for the tickets. They could be turned in, but only for part of the value at this late date. Unless there was a stand-by traveler who would buy them off him, he was out of luck.
So eventually, Ray made his way to the port office. He was toying with the idea of going on the trip anyway. He'd never been off planet, after all. If he went, he would not have to face his friends, his co-workers. Sympathy, teasing, kindness, cruelty. He couldn't endure it. Yet he did not go to his flat and collect his bag, and he was not seriously thinking of going through with it. Wishful thinking, escape. Better to turn in the tickets for whatever could be retrieved and go up to the islands for the months he was scheduled to be off. Find a lady to dally with, fuck himself senseless until he forgot every feature of Ann's face, that's what he should do!
The port office was busy, filled with the low murmur of travelers and those who had come to meet them. Doyle went to the terminals, checked the status of his shuttle to the moon, and of the ship out to Mars. The Mars ship, The Geode, was booked full, he noticed. Good, then maybe there would be someone who wanted a berth! He registered that he had two available, and sat down to wait for his number to be paged.
It was a pleasant place to wait. The green plants, which were found everywhere in the city, were placed either very high or very low and he could see most of the crowd. He watched the flow of humanity. Couldn't help it, really. Protectors learned early to seek what was different, to watch the pattern of the pedestrians and do what they could to make sure there were no disruptions. Upon rare occasions, he also had the job of stopping a crime, assisting at accident sites and acting as a medic. A Protector had a varied, busy day, maintaining the corridors of the city. Ray Doyle liked his job. It gave him enough credit to live a good life, enough free time to enjoy his credit, and enough challenge in his day to keep his sanity. He liked his mates on the job, and even liked his superior,
it was work he was thinking of when he first realized something was wrong. Out of the corner of his eye he saw--something. There were people moving too fast on the slipwalk. A jostle, a sharp exclamation abruptly cut off, and Doyle was alert and up on his feet, moving towards the far exit. The man who blocked the way looked very ordinary, but Doyle's instincts said the man was a Con. He had the fast eyes of a man who had been in trouble more than once, maybe even been caught and had to put in time at the Adjustment Center.
The Con was scanning the crowd, looking for someone. A Protector approached, and Doyle watched the man receive the warning for slowing the flow of pedestrians. The man nodded politely and moved off. Doyle was not satisfied. His gut feeling said the man was up to something. Something....
It was the loose cloak he decided, as he watched the man stride away. Cloaks were almost out of fashion, and only older men and women wore them this season. Anything could be hidden in those folds, even a spang gun, or knife. Alert, Doyle found his eye on another man at the far door, and a woman at the counter. All of them looking for something. Something they wanted very, very much?
The loudspeaker called for the line for his shuttle flight. The flight he would not be on. Doyle frowned, and moved in that direction. It was a good place to see what was going on, for the line would form on the ramp, and in line he would be able to see over the heads of the people. Constantly watching, Doyle joined the end of the queue and moved forward with it, intending to step out of it at the doorway where the tickets were verified by the laser and each body was checked for contraband. There he would produce his ID, and be able to stay in the advantageous position while the rest of the people filed by.
The man four spaces in front of him gave his space to the pregnant woman standing behind him, earning a polite smile and a warm glance. It was only when the gentleman yielded his place to a stout businessman as well that Doyle focused on him.
Handsome man, in spite of the drab tunic of grey and brown he wore. Or was he? Doyle looked again. The man wore a privacy collar, and his features were gently distorted. It didn't flatter his smooth cap of dark hair or his blue eyes. The tunic was cut in the loose style favored by those who had a few pounds to hide. In spite of that, Doyle had the impression that this man had muscles under the tunic instead of softness. One by one the man traded places and the line was adjusted until the man was just in front of Doyle.
"Do excuse me. I'm waiting for a friend. Would you like to go ahead of me?" the tall man said politely.
"No," said Doyle, and watched consternation flash in the stranger's eyes, although it was quickly hidden. Doyle did not especially want to reach the head of the line himself.
"I truly don't mind," the man said, with just a trace too much kindness in his voice. He had a small carry bag in his hand.
Doyle focused on him, putting two and two into the calculator and getting four. This was what all those heavy types were looking for? This man? Good ploy, hiding in a line--until the laser would not let you pass because you did not have the ticket! No wonder he was working his way back instead of forward!
"Would you please," Doyle said quite softly, "allow me to escort you to the Protector's kiosk?" It was a version of the standard request, a phrase Doyle had offered a thousand times. It implied he had questions which needed answered, and it was usually the first step in an official Warning, a Declaration, or even an Arrest. He produced his badge, which had been in his pocket because he was officially off duty, and showed it briefly.
"I can't." Unfazed and apparently unconcerned, the man smiled at him.
"Can't?" Doyle raised an eyebrow and took another look at the man. What arrogance was this? Some Highers had that above-it-all attitude, and Doyle had never allowed it to be used on him. Rank didn't matter to him at all when it came to a Question and a matter of law. It was one reason he was a good Pro--and perhaps it was the reason he had not advanced further than a 5.
"I need your help," the man said in a voice so soft that it couldn't be heard by the people in front of him or behind. "I'm going to hand you my ID." Reaching into his pocket with extreme care, but also with a casualness which showed he was still mindful of those who might be watching, he produced a fold-over and handed it to Doyle.
Doyle flipped it open. CI5! There was the holo of the man, the official code number, the thumbprint. It looked authentic, but as he was not at a kiosk, Doyle could not check it with the computer to be sure. He couldn't compare the holo to the face because of the privacy collar. The name on the card was Bodie. William A. P. Bodie.
"Coogan's mob is after me," the man whispered.
Coogan? Number one on the Uncaught list? Doyle silently whistled, handing the man back his ID.
"What'd you have to do with Con Coogan?" Doyle wanted to know.
The other man gave a shrug which said he could not explain here, and then gave a glance around as the line moved forward. They were very near the top. Would a CI5 ID allow the man past the laser check without drawing attention to him? Probably not, Doyle thought, with a professional glance, judging by the nervousness the other was keeping under stern control.
So once there he could show his ID and be allowed to stay at the top of the ramp, but he would be in plain sight. The delay in the line would alert anyone who had an eye for such things. A Pro. Or a Con.
The CI5 man did not answer the question, but instead made a demand of his own. "I ask for assistance," he said, using the formal phrase.
Obligated to give assistance to security men if it was asked of him, Doyle looked the man up and down again. The picture on the ID didn't match the looks of the man, but there was the privacy collar to consider. If the ID was a fake.... Not committing himself, Doyle asked in return, "What assistance do you require?"
"I need...damn! There's another one! That's eight he's turned out to look for me! I didn't know...." The line moved forward. They were now in plain sight of everyone on the floor below.
"Turn your head to the front." Doyle reached into his pocket, sensing the man before him tense up. What did he think Doyle had there, a spang? Doyle gave him a black look and pulled out two lengths of thick blue ribbon. Soundlessly, he began tying one around the upper arm of his companion.
"Match ribbons? What's going on?" demanded the agent, but he allowed his arm to be decorated because he did not want to cause a fuss and draw eyes.
"Tie this one on me."
Bodie did so, but he was watching the line move forward as he did it. "What do you have in mind?"
"We can say we can't find our something. You, you berk, 'ave forgot it! They'll let us draw aside, won't they? Everybody knows new-matches have all their brains in their pants. I have the tickets, so they'll know we're passengers, and they'll let us stand aside while we go though our pockets and your bag. I'll make a show of...."
"Tickets?" Bodie looked at the Pro speculatively. "You have tickets? More than one? Where's your companion?" He looked at the ribbon decorating his arm, and while his face did not show it, Doyle knew there was a great deal of speculation going on behind those blue eyes.
"She couldn't make it, and as they haven't called me to the counters, I don't think they've found somebody at the last minute to buy the tickets, either. That's eight hundred points I'm out!"
"It's perfect," Bodie breathed, and a delighted grin, the type which hints at devilish trouble for someone, widened across his face. "I'll use the ticket, get completely away from the entire lot of them! And CI5 will reimburse you for the cost of your ticket. Though don't hold-your breath, the expenses take forever to process. You won't have your money for months."
"Use the ticket?" Doyle didn't like the sound of that. For one thing, it was a cabin for two he had reserved, and he didn't know this man well enough to share quarters. Further more, he had not brought along his bag, as he had not intended to go along on this trip. "But even I'm not going! I don't have my bag! And we're not just talking about a moon trip, you know! These are tickets for Mars."
"So buy clothes and a bag up on the moon," Bodie suggested very quietly. They had reached the top of the ramp, and there were only a few people ahead of them now.
"At moon prices? Are you crazy?"
"No. Keep your voice lower. Don't want these people to think we're having out first fight, do you?" That grin flashed again. It could become a very annoying sight, Doyle thought. "No time to change now. You're the one that put these bloody ribbons on us! It would look strange if a new match separated at the gate, wouldn't it! Come on, Angelfish!" Bodie drew Doyle to his side as a newly matched pair might do, to whisper in his ear, "One of them is working his way up the ramp! We have to get away! It's important!"
Doyle threw a glance over the sturdy shoulder rubbing against his. There was a man edging upwards, slowed by the press of the crowd and the irate citizens who suspected him of jumping the line. He looked like a thug, and he was wearing a cloak.
Doyle looked up. Two people were still in front of them. Well, why not at least take the shuttle up to the moon? Could sort it out there, couldn't they? That decided, he reached in his pocket for the shuttle tickets. They were both in his name, so Bodie would have to register for one before they would let him board. That shouldn't take long. He glanced behind them again. The thug was making fairly quick progress towards them.
"Fill out the gate data quickly," Doyle advised. If necessary, he could let Bodie go ahead, and stop the man for his behavior. Dragging him off to a kiosk should slow him down. Doyle wasn't too fond of the thought of that, for he might miss the flight. He resented the thought of anyone, even a CI5 agent, going off on his ticket, while missing the flight himself.
It was their turn. Doyle keyed one of his tickets over to Bodie, who was filling in the information on the screen, his fingers flashing over the keyboard. Doyle was keeping an eye behind, and it was only by chance he saw the form before the computer accepted it and blanked it. The name used was not Bodie. He watched as Bodie ran an ID card into the slot, and it didn't say Bodie on it, either.
"Cover identity," Bodie explained as the door slid open for them and the walk carried them along at speed 5 towards the shuttle. Doyle gave a nod, but inside he was wondering. What if the CI5 ID was the fake one? Had he been taken advantage of, was he going to regret this?
"Wilfred Bond?" Doyle said, repeating the name on the card.
"I'm just hoping they haven't traced that one to me, yet."
"Make a habit of pretending to be someone else?" Doyle inquired mildly.
"All part of the job," Bodie agreed cheerfully.
"You do not," Doyle went on, "look like a Wilfred."
The walk took them straight to the shuttle. A human attendant was there, double-checking the tickets. "Matches! he exclaimed, with a grin. "Have you already registered?"
"Thought we'd do it on the moon," Bodie said smoothly.
"More romantic that way," the attendant agreed with a knowing wink. "Want to try it in one sixth gee, do you? You'd better be careful. Bit tricky, that!" He waved them on through. Doyle felt his face redden as a woman who was standing behind them giggled.
"Ever done that?" Bodie asked Doyle as they filed into the shuttle.
"Sex? Match? Or go to Mars?" Doyle had never registered a partnership before. He wondered if Bodie had. For that matter, Bodie could be matched right now. Was there some man or woman waiting for him to come home? As they were directed to seats in the front of the not quite full shuttle, Doyle answered.
"Mars," Bodie said, but through the privacy collar's haze Doyle was sure he was grinning.
"Never been off the rock," he confessed. "You?"
"Been to the moon a few times. Never been to Mars," Bodie replied. "You'll like it up there."
"Moon, or Mars?" Doyle inquired, as a line of people sat down behind them.
"Both, probably. Filling up fast, isn't it?" Bodie commented, and that was when Doyle realized that Bodie was still watching the crowd. Did he think he was followed? How could he be? But then, not everybody here was bound for the Geode and Mars. There was a chance a ticket was available, and one of the cons could manage to join them. He or she would be one of the last people on board, if so. Or they could be finding a berth on another shuttle. A ship took off or came down every half hour. Bodie's problems, whatever they were, might not have been solved by getting on the shuttle.
As soon as the shuttle was full, the walls lit up and each section began to show an identical program of emergency cautions and take off procedures. Doyle strapped in when instructed to, sensing Bodie doing the same beside him. There were no windows in the shuttle, but the walls showed a video of a shuttle lift-off just to remind the passengers of what was happening outside. Then a currently popular video mystery began to run. Doyle wasn't interested in the plot. It was about a Pro on the trail of a murderer and it wasn't realistic at all. It had a slipwalk chase that had Doyle wondering how they'd slowed 'em down and coordinated the leaps, but didn't really leave him believing.
Bodie closed his eyes immediately after take-off, and dozed. Doyle watched the crowd, but no one was paying them special attention or acting in an unusual way. He was aware of the gravity shifts, of the lightness which came with them. His stomach twisted, and he was glad he had not had anything to eat in hours. Beside him, Bodie slept on. Must be made of iron, Doyle thought, glancing at the other man. But they took the tough ones for the security services, didn't they? Doyle had applied once, himself, but been turned down. He had the qualifications, but they'd met
the influx quota and didn't need him. What made this man special? Doyle looked, and then shrugged. The man looked normal. Of course, there was the matter of that privacy collar. He wondered what the man looked like under there. Most people wore one for a few days, to disguise the scars of surgery, if they'd had their faces adjusted, but there were some well known vid-stars and politicians who wore them, too. And, of course, Cons.
He was staring at Bodie when the trolley came around with little squeeze bulbs of juice. When Doyle took both his own, and one for the sleeping Bodie, the man who served them smiled indulgently at them and then winked, as if to imply that of course the newly matched were enthralled with each other, would be doing small services for each other. It was starting to feel strange. Bodie was not at all what he would have chosen as a match. For one thing, he was male. Doyle knew and admired several friends who were in male pairings, but for himself, his taste had usually run towards the feminine side of the species. Male matches might be honored by the population council, and the president and his match were upheld as the perfect couple, but that hadn't swayed Doyle from an almost full-fledged case of heterosexuality.
So in addition to finding himself sharing his match tour with a stranger, it was a male stranger. Someone as opposite of Ann as could be created.
Thinking of Ann was a mistake. Ann, who had changed her mind. Which meant she had never felt much for him in the first place. Ann had not loved him. She liked him, and enjoyed him, and sexed with him, but she had not loved him. Something he had done wrong? Something....
When the artificial gravity switched over completely, Bodie opened his eyes. Wordlessly, Doyle handed him the bulb and watched the expert way Bodie sucked it dry. He was glad the other man hadn't been awake to see his own struggles--with the bulb and with his thoughts. Bodie's problems were going to get his full attention, Doyle decided. For one thing, unlike his own, Bodie's had, if not solutions, then at least resolutions.
"Thanks for watching while I slept," Bodie said, sitting up a little straighter. "Do the same for you?" he offered.
"How did you know I stayed awake? Could have slept as well!" Doyle told him.
"I'd have known. Do you want to sleep?"
"After I find a relief station," Doyle said. The newness of the trip was wearing off. All their fellow passengers were watching the walls, or sleeping, or had their heads bent over book slates. He made his way through the narrow aisles to the short line leading to the one relief station, and waited to use it in turn. It was embarrassing to discover that one did not merely point and go. One had to make sure that what was pointed--and what emerged--was in the suction field. Very odd sensation, that. He was wearing a bemused expression on his face when he rejoined Bodie.
"Liked that, did you?" Bodie joked.
"Do people ever misuse those?" Doyle asked as he sat down and pulled the strap across his lap again.
"I've heard you can increase the suction's pressure--have to if the gravity gets lighter--for some interesting effects."
Doyle smiled. "What, never tried it yourself?"
"And have some oldster banging on the door, wanting to know what I was taking so long about? Can you imagine how they'd all stare when you opened the door again?"
"Wouldn't be polite, would it," Doyle murmured, not making it clear if the act, or the staring to which he referred.
"Always polite, are you, Doyle?" Bodie asked.
"A Pro is supposed to be always polite." Doyle made a brushing motion towards the spot on his tunic where his badge was usually displayed. Off duty, it stayed in a pocket, for Ann hadn't liked....
"Bad thought?" Bodie asked, carelessly.
Doyle considered how much to tell him. "Yes. About Ann."
"She the one supposed to be sitting beside you?" Bodie wanted to know.
"She decided she'd rather not."
"Ah. Had a bad fever, did she? Blow to the head?"
"What?" Doyle didn't understand.
"You have secrets, vices, bad breath?"
Doyle sighed. "Is this your way of asking why she changed her mind?"
"In a word, yes. You look like a personable lad." Bodie straightened up, clearly interested in Doyle's background.
"She didn't say, really. Only that she realized we wouldn't suit. Came from a Higher family, Ann did. She had a literary job, and was working her way up as well. I think she realized the climb would take longer matched to me. Or maybe her father...he's something to look into, I suspect. He didn't like me. Maybe it was me, and maybe he just didn't want a Pro in the family."
"Not everyone's cup of tea," Bodie agreed. "Speaking of tea," he said, looking longingly, at the digital on the door, "I wish we would land so that we could have some!" The juice was served to keep the passengers from getting dehydrated, but other food and drink was banned on shuttle flights. All too often, the gravity failed, and it was hard enough to keep the passengers under control, much less the flotsam of drifting food.
"Impatient?" Doyle asked.
"Upon occasion. Not always, though. I know what's worth waiting for," Bodie said.
Doyle didn't ask the obvious question, partly because he knew Bodie wanted him to do so.
"Unlike Ann," Bodie added.
"Oh, Ann probably knows what she wants," Doyle managed to say, covering his surprise. Surely the man did not mean to imply....
"So do I," Bodie said, and got up to join the line for the relief station.
Doyle was left pondering his words, turning them over and over in his mind. "I'm het," he said to Bodie as the other returned.
"How disappointing. I'm not," said Bodie, and closed his eyes as if to sleep some more.
Doyle poked him. "Bi?" he asked.
"Quite." Bodie opened his eyes again. "Don't let it worry you. I never go where I'm not invited. Best you should know, though, since we're playing at being matched."
"As long as you remember it's just playing."
"I don't suppose you'll let me forget it. Wake me in an hour, will you, Sunshine?"
"Just before I chuck you out the airlock," Doyle assured him. "Wait. It was my turn to sleep," he remembered. But he did not press the point. Too much to think about. Ann who didn't want him. This stranger who implied he did. Not that the two things could be compared. This man probably only wanted a few turns in the sheets. Except that was all Ann apparently had wanted, too.
An hour later, he woke up his companion, and by then he was so tired that he had only to close his eyes to be asleep. He woke up when Bodie shook his shoulder lightly. Doyle lifted his head. It was only then that he realized he had been resting against Bodie. Quickly he straightened up. The landing lights flashed on.
"Welcome to the moon," a smooth woman's voice came over the speakers, as the entertainment faded from the walls. "We will be sliding into our berth in only eighteen minutes. Those of you who will be going on to the Cammeron, the Geode or the Moon Tour please report to the representative of your travel service, who will meet the ship. All others please use the right exit when leaving the ship. We thank you for your patronage, and hope you will book with us again."
"The Geode?" Bodie said.
"Yes. Are you really considering using my extra ticket? You could stay here, go down on the next flight," Doyle suggested.
"I'll go where I'm sent. I'll need to get to a console. If the boss says go back, I'll go back. If not, I'll go with you." Bodie stretched, seemingly unconcerned.
Doyle, who had grown up in a society where everyone kept a phone in their pocket, the idea of having to go find a unit in order to make a call was both primitive and exotic. "I forgot--they'll want my phone." He patted his pocket.
"Yes. It's different here, with restricted frequencies and almost all the channels 'official'. They'll give it back before you head down again, or your can have them send it to your home. The only reason they let yours through the check point down there, is you're a Pro. Maybe they thought you had to be in touch at all times with your branch."
The shuttle maneuvered into its slot and the woman's voice began again. "Please remember to stay on the gravity strips. Do not step off the strips until you have had training. I repeat, your feet should remain within the areas defined by the gravity strips."
Of course, there were fools everywhere who were impelled to test the parameters of any situation, and the line was slowed as first a business woman and then two teenage boys had to be rescued and pushed back into the range of the strips by young men in the black uniforms of the port services.
Doyle noticed that his companion had no difficulties with the gravity strips. With intense concentration and some luck, Doyle managed to make a decent showing himself. Reaching the young man wearing the blue tunic with the logo of the Geode across his front, they paused.
"Passengers for the Geode?" the man asked cheerfully. "I'm Paul Anal. Please, the wait will not be long. We...."
"Yes. I have an immediate need of a secured console for a call to earth." Doyle said it, showing his ID discreetly.
Anal's eyes widened but he drew his own phone and tapped a number, speaking in a low voice. Then he said, "One of our people will be along in a moment to escort you to the console. Meanwhile, as I see our first group has assembled, let me introduce my self again. I am flight host Paul Anal. Everyone here is booked on the Geode flight to Mars, correct?" When there was no answer, he gave an emphatic nod. "Good." He consulted his slate, counted the group again and smiled. "All here!"
Beside Doyle, Bodie gave a tiny twitch, and Doyle knew the CI5 Man found the host amusing. His own lips turned up, but he listened respectfully.
"We will spend the day here on the moon," Anal said, toning down the cheerfulness to a bearable level. "As perhaps you know, there are some people who do not adjust to low gravity or no gravity situations. If you feel light headed, nauseated, or ill in any way, we ask that you report to one of the clinics you'll find on every level. Geode will refund 92% of your ticket price and return you to planet on the next shuttle. Also, before you embark, we require a quick physical by our doctor. This is for your own protection. If the doctor does not pass you, I regret you will not be allowed to continue. However, we will then refund 93% of your payment and return you on the shuttle. You will have a visit to the moon, and our regrets. You understand that for purposes of insurance, we must adhere to these regulations. Have you questions?"
There were twenty others standing there, most of them young and most of them obviously matched. Two other pairs wore the ribbons which marked them as newly matched. Most seemed more interested in each other than in the host.
"Another thing, which I assume most of you know," Anal went on, "is that there is a limit on baggage which can be taken on the trip. Only ten pounds per person. You will be assigned lockers here, in which you may leave any excess items, including any souvenirs of the moon you may obtain. If you feel you must take additional items, you may see the office about it, but I warn you, the cost is excessive."
One of the passengers lifted a hand to indicate a question. "When will we have a meal?"
"Quite soon! You'll have a marvelous meal. I'm sorry you have to restrict your ingestion for the shuttle flight, but we will make it up to you, I promise!" He smiled, nodded and went on.
"Here is the schedule. We will assign you rooms here. They will be small, but the rooms on the Geode are smaller. If you find the quarters here too confining, if you become claustrophobic, we suggest you withdraw from the voyage. If you decide at this, point not to continue, you will return on the next shuttle and we will return 90% of your ticket costs. You will be on the Geode for many days, and we do not want to cause you distress.
"After we assign the rooms, you will all assemble in our central room for the meal, where you will meet others taking the trip. We will have fifty passengers on the Geode on this occasion. We will schedule your appointment with the doctor. Then you will have the rest of the day to explore our charming moon city. Enjoy yourself, but return in time to get a full nine hours of sleep. At hour seven, we will be loading passengers for Mars! No breakfast before you board, remember! Take-off unsettles the stomach."
"Nice way to put it," Bodie whispered, causing Doyle to have to struggle to keep his face polite. He retaliated by shifting his feet, causing Bodie's balance to fight the gravity strip. Bodie grinned.
"Please follow me and we'll get the rooms and appointments assigned!" Anal trotted off. Doyle and Bodie let the others go ahead of them, taking a place at the end of the line. A woman wearing the Geode logo arrived, spoke with Anal and then came towards them.
"Please follow me to the phone," she said, and led the way to a tiny room. Bodie sat down-before the console, but did not activate it until Doyle had stepped out. Doyle wandered down to the nearest wall screen. Windows were not practical up here, for even insulated double glass lost too much heat. There were vid sets which projected the scene outside onto the wall inside, giving the effect of a window.
Doyle stood and watched the squat lunar vehicles come and go. A tour of the moon was a highlight of many people's lives. It did not look exciting. Too crowded, and nothing to see but different combinations of black and white. More exciting would be to try walking outside, away from the gravity strips. He watched technicians moving in the slow long strides of low gravity and wondered how it would feel. Should he spend the extra money and find out?
The more practical side of him reminded that he had already spent more than he liked to think about on this trip. The frustrated core of him demanded that he have at least some pleasures to repay him for his disappointments. Here he was on his match trip, and....
He moved down to the next screen. He was just in time to see the next shuttle settle down. The flexible tube extended from the port building and fastened on the side of the shuttle. After than there was nothing to see, but he knew the people were unfastening their belts and following the gravity strips, just as he had done a short while before.
Were any of those people Cons? Were they chasing the mysterious Mr. Bodie? CI5 was a small organization which served in many capacities. When the president had visited last year, there had been a CI5 man requesting that the speed of the slipwalks the president would be taking be changed. A slightly increased speed, he remembered, to discourage the crowds. Or had there been specific members of the public being discouraged?
Lost in thought, he did not lift his head until he heard his name being called for the second time. Bodie was leaning out of the console room, waving. Doyle returned, moving as quickly as the gravity strip and his own awkwardness would allow.
"I've got my orders! It's on to Mars. The boss wants to talk to you," he added. "Hurry up--this is costing a fortune and that makes him crabby."
The boss? Yes, it was the image of George Cowley himself on the tiny screen.
"Mr. Doyle? I want to thank you for your assistance to my operative. It would serve CI5 best if he did go on to Mars in your company. You will be compensated for the full cost of his ticket. For reasons of security, the transaction will take place upon your return. The people we are dealing with are quite capable of recording bank transactions and making accurate guesses based on such information. For this reason, we will pay you a fee to cover the difficulty this may cause you."
"Thank you," Doyle said. He would have said more, but the other man began speaking again, and Mr. Cowley was not the type of man one interrupted.
"I also have an unusual request. Bodie informed me of your personal situation, for which I express my regret. It is, however, quite useful to us that you are on your match trip without a match. I propose that you register a match with Bodie while on the moon." Before Doyle's protests and questions could come boiling out, Mr. Cowley pressed on. "It would protect my agent if he was registered in a match under the name he is currently using."
"Quite. Records will show he registered properly. You will be able to un-match at the end of three months time, and will receive a separation settlement."
Legally, any match could be dissolved at the end of three months, but a settlement was usually given only when one partner of a long term match wished to break it. It was an admission of fault.
"I'm het." Doyle said firmly.
"Perhaps a larger settlement?" Cowley asked, apparently unaware that the statement enraged the Pro.
"Perhaps a promise of abstinence from your agent?" Doyle countered.
"You mean I have to pretend to be matched to you, and can't touch you!?" Bodie showed as much reaction to this as Doyle had seen from him so far. One of those, was he? One who had to have it at regular intervals? Not that he didn't have a point. If known to be matched, he could not go looking for another to share passions with, and if he could not find what he needed in the match, then he would do without for the time they were matched.
"You will pledge your cooperation," Cowley said flatly, to Bodie.
Rebellion was in every line of Bodie's big body, but he said tightly, "Yes, sir." He turned to Doyle, scowling. "It will be as you decide."
"Protector Doyle?" Cowley asked, now wanting Doyle's answer. Slick old man, Doyle thought, using the title of Protector to remind him that assisting the security branches was his duty.
"I'll match, but I'll Declare if he offends me."
"Acceptable. Let me explain to you some of the details of the situation. My man has observed a questionable action by associates of a man you may have knowledge of, Edwin Coogan. It is in the interests of Mr. Coogan that my agent not submit his information during the Declaration"
"CI5 has Declared? You think you can prove Coogan is in violation of law?" Doyle leaned forward eagerly. Coogan had stood for three Declarations so far, and never yet been convicted, although several of his minions had been found to be Cons. Coogan was willing to let his associates take the fall.
"The Declaration will not happen for some time." Cowley's frustration showed for a moment. They must be offering the same charges as the last time, then, and be forced to wait until a new quarter began and a new judge took the bench.
"The trip to Mars takes months!" Doyle protested.
Cowley smiled, a wintery but satisfied twisting of his lips. Doyle was suddenly uneasy at the thought of having anything at all to do with this man's schemes. "There will be other aspects of the charges to deal with. It is unfortunate, but we may be forced to keep Edwin Coogan in custody while we wait for Bodie."
"For Wilfred Bond." Bodie interjected.
"Yes. I ask that you see to the safety and delivery of my agent. Will you do that, Protector Doyle?"
"I'm on holiday."
"Ah. But you see I have looked up your record. I know the type of man you are, Doyle. You're not one to let a duty slide just because you haven't logged in yet. Your superiors speak highly of your dedication to duty."
Doyle felt manipulated. Flattered, but manipulated. "I won't have authority on ship or at the colony, but I'll do my best to make sure he returns to you," Doyle said.
"Excellent. I expect to be contacted when you return to the moon." This last was directed at Bodie.
Cowley nodded and broke the connection. When the screen flickered, Doyle remembered that this was not a normal call. It had probably cost a month's pay. He was glad it was not on his bill.
"Time to go, love. We have so much to do," Bodie said briskly, standing up. "Have to go get our room, get our meal and then get Matched." He smiled, enjoying the tiny flinch Doyle had made when reminded. "We need to, get you a set of clothing as well. You can share my kit," he added, picking up his bag. "We don't want to go over the weight limit, for you may be sure George Cowley will not pay for it!"
"It solves one problem," Doyle said. "If you've enough for two?"
"Oh, I've enough for two," Bodie said, exiting the room, and leaving Doyle with the impression that he was not just talking about deodorant and soap.
Doyle had no opportunity to reflect on it, for he had to catch up with Bodie. Their timing was excellent, for the last of the line from their ship was being assigned a room as they arrived.
"Doyle, Raymond," Doyle announced. "And match."
"Match's name, and thumbprint for the records," the computer image said.
"Wilfred Bond," Bodie said, and pressed him thumb down on the plate.
"Thank you. Match number?" asked the mechanical voice.
"We haven't one. We're having the match confirmed up here," Bodie said.
"Please supply match number when boarding. Your room number is 1004. Your clinic appointments--you are the last--are at 0515, Moon time. Your report time is 0700. Have you questions?"
"No," Doyle said, just as Bodie asked, "Where is the food?"
"Room 103, this level. The meal is being served now."
"Then we'd better hurry. Thank you," Bodie said, and headed off at once. His speed, even considering the gravity strips, was excessive, but Doyle did not complain, but did his best to keep up. He wasn't going to show himself as inferior to this CI5 agent.
"Hungry?" he asked with mild sarcasm.
"Starved. Aren't you?" Bodie asked cheerfully,
His stomach agreed, but he wouldn't say so. "Is this it?"
"Smells like it. Look, the whole room has gravity," Bodie said as they stepped in. It wasn't full gravity, but enough so the people here could sit and eat comfortably. The room was filled with the low sound of talk. Most of the people were at tables for two or four, and there were no tables for two left. "Looks like I'll have to share you, Sunshine," Bodie said as he headed for the food. It was laid out buffet style, with a fielded hood over the tables to secure the food if the gravity was to fail.
Doyle followed along, filling his own plate from the rather elegant selection. He was faintly embarrassed at the amount on Bodie's plate, although he wasn't sure why he should be. Not as though they were really matched, was it?
Bodie sat at a table for six which had a couple at one end. The man and woman were wearing match ribbons around their arms and were very much involved in feeding each other bits of food and whispering to each other.
Bodie picked up a shrimp-shaped bit of vegiform. "Open wide, my petal," he teased, and brought it towards Doyle's mouth.
"Only," Doyle told him, sotto voce, "if you want me to bite off your fingers."
Bodie popped the morsel in his own mouth. "I can tell you've never been matched before!"
"Have you?" Doyle asked, refusing to volunteer personal information under these circumstances.
"No. Never found the right person," Bodie told him, between bites.
Doyle tasted his own food, finding it wonderful, but he paused long enough to say, "Looked for one?"
"Oh, every night!" Bodie said, with a wink that told that he did not adhere tightly to the government's suggestions about restricted sexual contact.
Doyle, who had, before meeting Ann, bent that particular rule a few times himself, applied himself to his meal.
"You don't approve? Good little Pro like you followed all the guidelines? Sex only to see if a partner is compatible and with a possible match in mind?" Bodie's tone was faintly scornful.
"Get your disease testing at regular intervals?" Doyle asked, responding in kind.
"The boss makes sure of it," Bodie replied, not at all embarrassed. "I'm as clean as this plate's going to be--in case you were wondering."
"Oh?" Bodie winked. "Sure of that?"
Since the only reason he would need to know was if he were considering mating with the man, Doyle was quite sure. He ignored the taunting voice and ate steadily.
"You might as well know, I intend to talk you into bed," Bodie told him in a conversational tone. Their voices were very low, and Bodie had sat very close to him, as a match might be expected to do.
"Why?" Doyle asked flatly, drinking deeply of his glass of water.
"Stupid question, darling. You have the eyes to die for--and an arse to match it, and speaking of matches--we will be. In case you've forgotten, it's what the matched do."
Bodie interrupted him. "I said it would be as you decide. I didn't say I wouldn't try to change your mind. I'm very attracted to you," he explained. "Was from the first moment I saw you."
"I'm het!" Doyle said, louder than he intended. Fortunately, no one seemed to have noticed, and no heads turned his direction.
"So you keep saying. But have you ever tried the other side?"
"I've tried it. When I was young. The way all children do."
"You must tell me about it some time," Bodie teased. "For all I know, the idiot didn't do it right."
"The one who got you in his arms and then failed so utterly."
"You make a lot of assumptions," Doyle said, drinking again.
"It's just that I have confidence in my own...shall we say, abilities?"
"How nice for you," Doyle said, with a cold glance. It was clear his attitude was that his food held more attraction for him than his companion.
"And you know what they say about the Mars trip. Doyle, something like this will never fall into my lap again! You can't expect me to take this voyage and not find out for myself if it's true!"
"Can't I?" Doyle asked, but he felt a regret of his own which he did not let Bodie see. Sex in low gravity during Jump was supposed to be...different. Different, how? Reports varied. Video tales were fiction, and not to be trusted, but the first hand accounts he had watched were each so different that no real conclusion could be drawn. It was a sad thing that he was not going to discover the wonder himself, but the alternative was to experience it with an aggressive--and male--stranger.
"It's going to be a long quarter," Bodie grumbled, attacking the rest of his food and leaving conversation alone for the moment.
Doyle finished his food first and sat with a cup of hot tea, waiting. A Pro learned patience early, and besides, Doyle didn't mind sitting and watching the crowd. The people from the next shuttle were filing in. Business associates, he decided. They all looked of a piece, in dark clothing. No obvious cons, no youths with wild hair. No matches in this lot, either, he noticed.
"Something?" Bodie asked, his attention apparently still on his meal.
"No matches," Doyle said. They reminded him of something....
"You're thinking of Coogan's hounds at the port on Earth."
He had been. Doyle turned to look at Bodie. He wasn't used to strangers who seemed to read his mind.
"Cowley did say you were a good Pro," was all Bodie said in explanation before he cleared his plate. "You ready to go?"
"Then let's go get matched." Bodie grinned as he stood up.
His eager attitude was exactly what it should be for one feigning nuptial anticipation, but it annoyed Doyle.
Bodie's grin grew wider. "Try to look happy. After all, you're winning a very fine man, here. Hundreds have looked my way and been turned aside with broken hearts, and here I'm offering my all to you. You could at least look pleased about it!"
"Hundreds of what?" Doyle asked. His in-public face was in place, and the tone of his voice was pleasant, but there was a sting to the words none the less.
"Oh, women as well as men, I assure you. I appeal to almost everyone," Bodie assured him. "Handsome face, regular exercise, steady job--you could do worse, Sunshine!"
"Why are you calling me that?" Doyle asked as they went out the door.
"It's a love name. Didn't anyone ever call you by a love name? And if so, why not?"
Doyle did not allow himself to react. He thought about Ann, who had not had any love names for him. But he had not used many with her, either. Why?
Doyle said, "Ah. Perhaps I can think of one suitable for you. Petal?"
"Wouldn't bother me. I've been called worse," Bodie assured him.
"I'm sure you have," Doyle said politely, and said little else as they moved down the hall. The gravity strip took most of his attention. Lifting his feet enough to walk, but not so far that he pulled free of the artificial pull, he fell behind just far enough to find that he was following Bodie. This annoyed him immensely, but he was careful to keep his feelings hidden, not only because he was in public, but because he did not want to show a weakness to the other man.
It was because he was a Pro, it was because he was lagging behind, and also because he had a suspicious mind, that he noticed the man following them. A tall man, dark, walking smoothly and therefore either local or well-travelled.
"Friend of yours?" Doyle asked Bodie as they came to an intersection.
"No. I take it he's not familiar to you, either?" Bodie had also seen the man? Grudgingly, Doyle's respect for his companion went up another notch.
"Let him follow. He could be witness at our match!" Bodie joked, taking a left turn.
"Friend or family?" Doyle asked. "He looks more like you."
"Not nearly as handsome," Bodie told him. Then Bodie let as much of a smile out as was polite, and said, "Here we are! Just two citizens on their own business! Be interesting to see how long he lasts. Will he follow us right up to the desk?"
The stranger lasted to the door of the Statistics and Registration office, at which point he paused as if remembering an appointment and hurried out of sight. Designated with the SRO logo in red and blue, the SRO looked like SRO offices anywhere, with consoles around the perimeter and the desk with the workers and volunteers in the center.
"Matches!" called out an older man as he saw their ribbons. He had white hair and wore the tunic of a volunteer. "I'm David Green of the Waiting Sect! Have you need of a witness?"
"Sorry. I'm agnostic," Bodie said cheerfully.
"I assure you, our sect does not...."
"All we need is a representative of Libra," Doyle broke in.
"Oh. Well, yes, there is a Justice official here. At desk six," he pointed.
"Thank you," Doyle said, and headed that direction, forcing Bodie to follow. Fortunately, the Waiter did not.
"I don't know if I can marry you, Doyle. I didn't know you had Beliefs!" Bodie said in mock horror.
"Yes you did," Doyle said. He was a Pro. The doctrine of fairness was almost a given in his profession.
"I suppose I'll learn to live with it," Bodie said, feigning resignation.
Doyle ignored him. "We're here to match," he told the young lady at the desk. "Our forms were all filled out on Earth. We just need witness and signatures."
"And the party and the bedroom," Bodie whispered, loud enough for only Doyle to hear.
"Of course," the young lady said, leading them to the console nearest to them. "Names?"
The mic picked the words up, but she typed them in as well, carefully checking the spelling of each. The two screens came up.
"Who first?" she asked.
"Me," Bodie said, and sat down. He read through Doyle's file, signed his name, and stood up, giving his seat to Doyle with a flourish of his hand.
The file on Bodie was all lies, but Doyle read it anyway. Height, weight, age--those might be right. Just thirty, or was that a lie, too? Single birth, no diseases or defects, a decent education and no previous matches. It might all be true except the birthdate and the name. If this were a real match, he'd be pleased with the profile. Not that he'd ever tell Bodie so! He signed his name.
"Please stand up," the woman said. She turned on the audio switch. "Wilfred Bond?"
Bodie knew what to do. "I am Wilfred Bond. I declare Raymond Doyle my Match." He and the young woman turned to Doyle.
"Raymond Doyle. I declare Wilfred Bond my Match."
The woman nodded. "I, Anna-Lisa Conmaricha, witness this Match. Moon A2352, Console six." She turned off the switch and turned to them. "It's done!" She waited expectantly.
Feeling something like a hypocrite, Doyle untied the bit of blue ribbon from around Bodie's arm, while Bodie did the same for him. Then Anna-Lisa took both of the soft strings, folded them together and tied them in a knot. She offered it to Bodie, who took it, kissed the knot, and passed it to Doyle, who did the same before handing it back to her. Untying the knot, she handed the strings back, one to each of them. Bodie tied the one he received around Doyle's arm, as Doyle did the same to Bodie.
"Thank you both! Your match number is 143745-WBRD. The registration fee has been deducted from each point balance. Have a long and loving match!"
"Thank you," Doyle said. He had the strangest feeling of being let down. He had looked forward to this moment. Ann and he, pledging to each other with a few friends to witness, and then a wonderful night of loving. Here, he was matching with a stranger, witnessed by a stranger, and he was going to...what? Certainly not a night of tender love! He looked over at his companion. Tall, tough, a bi male...he hoped none of his friends ever learned about this!
"Yes, thank you!" Bodie was smiling. This was one of the places where such a reaction in public wasn't frowned upon. Doyle tried to summon up a smile of his own, but it wasn't much of one and he let it die a natural death.
"Now we find our room!" Bodie said, much too loudly, and taking Doyle by the hand, he headed for the door.
As soon as they stepped into the hallway, Doyle pulled his hand free.
"Hand holding for new matches is practically required!" Bodie protested. Doyle had the impression the man was laughing at him and he didn't like it.
"We can skip it. Pretend you actually know the meaning of acceptable public behavior!" Doyle stalked off
"I know it. Just don't choose to follow the same standards everyone else does. Unlike you, Sunshine. You've enforced the rules so long you actually believe in them!"
Doyle gave him a poisonous look, but then recovered his presence of mind and smoothed his face. Bodie's stupid opinions had nothing to do with him!
A small voice said, 'He's your match.' Doyle ignored it. Bodie was not his match. It was a false match, but not more than a match with Ann would have been. He tried to think of Ann, but there was no comfort there. She didn't want him. If she hadn't changed her mind so suddenly, he wouldn't be in this mess! All Ann's fault! Then, he was even more angry with himself for thinking such nonsense.
"We're here." Bodie said.
Doyle looked up. They had turned off the main corridor and were standing in front of a residential door. 1004. Bodie put his palm to the panel and the door opened. Before stepping in, Doyle glanced around. They didn't seem to have a shadow. He frowned. He should have been thinking about that earlier.
Bodie dropped his bag on the table and opened it. It was a small room, the ceiling only a finger's length higher than Bodie's head. There was no bed such as one might find in a home, but only a raised platform, padded, with a therma-sheet folded at the end nearest them. The gravity was probably on at 50 percent except in the tiny bathroom cubicle, which had something approaching earth norm.
Doyle was having difficulty in adjusting to the gravity changes, but did not have anything to say as he fought for balance. He was watching Bodie set up a small, disk-shaped item on the table.
"A privacy field?" Doyle asked, as he figured out what it was. It was half the size of any he had seen before.
"And a snoop check. I don't want anyone to hear when I whisper sweet nothings in your ear!" Bodie joked.
Doyle dismissed that. "Why would we need to speak privately? We've not been totally discreet. Anyone with a directional mic on us would already know...."
Bodie shrugged. "We've been careful enough, unless the whole of the port is bugged. I've a unit which pings in my ear when I'm being monitored, and it's not gone off. Of course, the other side might have new technology," he mused. The thought didn't seem to worry him. "It's the ship that will be wired. They random monitor the compartments. No, I need to give you some information."
"A number to call if something happens to me. I don't mean if I'm hurt, I mean if I'm dead. Cowley will want to be informed immediately. I also have to explain a few things. Some information about the case. And then I'm going to jump you."
"Bodie!" Doyle began.
"Better make that Bond. Don't want to get into the habit of tossing that name around." Bodie said.
"It's probably not, your name anyway," Doyle said. "And if your word means so little...."
"Did I say anything about sex? I'm going to jump you--and see if you know anything about fighting under low gravity conditions. I want to be ready for anything. You're my partner for the moment. I want to know how far I can rely on you." Bodie's tone said he didn't expect much.
Doyle kept back his reaction. He had been division champion in the martial arts competition last year. He knew he was fast and that opponents routinely under-estimated him. He also knew he'd never had to handle himself in abnormal gravity. Chases along slipwalks, leaps between levels, stopping fights in certain pubs, that was one thing. Up here was another. He tried to remember what he had learned in school about force and gravity.
"First," Bodie said, "the numbers! Then the fun."
'Fun?' thought Doyle, fifteen minutes later as he bounced off the wall. He twisted--too much--and went wide as he aimed a kick at Bodie. Only a madman would call this fun! Sweat was dripping down Doyle's face already, and he was fearing for the seams in his clothing, when he could spare a second to think of such things. It wasn't only that Bodie was good. Doyle had fought against those better than himself many times. It wasn't that he knew the tricks to fighting in low gravity--tricks that Doyle was picking up as fast as he could--it was the way he fought. It was different in a way that defied words. Bodie had power, he had moves Doyle had never seen, and he had a quality Doyle at first could not recognize, an intensity of motion, a....
Doyle pinwheeled across the room, hit the wall and slid down it. Holding a hand to his split lip, Doyle waited for the room to stop tilting. Bodie was coming towards him, and Doyle tensed, but the other man stopped a few feet away, dropped to a squat, peered at him, and grinned a grin Doyle was finding increasingly annoying.
"You're good," Bodie said. Then he added, "Just as well we were going to get you new clothing, though, isn't it?"
Doyle looked with disgust at his torn tunic. "You knew this was my only outfit!" he complained bitterly.
"Yes, but I knew what you'd say if I suggested you take it off so that we could fight in our briefs, too. You'd have thought I was just after the sight of your body!" Bodie grinned again. Doyle wished that face were just a few inches closer--and that he had the energy for one more good swing.
"Don't look like that, Sunshine! Or I'll have to think about changing your name to Thunder-cloud." Bodie reached a hand out to help Doyle up. Doyle gave another wipe at his face with the back of his hand and then, ignoring the outstretched hand, he pushed himself up. He went to the tiny relief room. There was the covered hood of the gravity toilet and a tiny sink with a suction drain. There was no shower. He very much wanted a long, hot shower. His face must have showed his sour reaction.
Bodie's voice came from the door, rich with suppressed amusement. "They don't shower up here, or bathe. It's old-style damp cloth, if you want to be fresh. In the old days, when the moon base was first built, it was considered quite proper to have a definite pong! It's actually possible to keep clean with just a bit of water and soap, you know. They provide a good cleaner and a lotion for afterwards!"
This flow of information did not impress Doyle. "Would you get out?" he asked, almost civilly.
"Out? Not a very good beginning to our match, Dearest!"
"Out--unless you want a tree named after you?" Doyle asked sweetly.
He was referring to the practice of burying the cremated or processed remains of loved ones at the roots of a tiny tree, which was then planted in one of the reclamation projects. The government had been advocating the practice for the last ten years, but it had not caught on in all communities.
"A tree? Don't believe they do that up here. Just dump you in the recycler, I'm sure. But wait," he paused, dramatically. "Why, I do believe that was a threat!" Bodie was not at all distressed by it, which was even more aggravating.
"Bond." Doyle repeated, willing to go that far, "I want some privacy." He said it in a flat voice. His hands were busy tearing open the packet and shaking out the cloth, his eyes were on the task.
"How do you do that?" Bodie asked. He didn't wait for an answer, knowing Doyle wasn't likely to give him one. "You make that wall of cold without even looking at a person."
Doyle ignored him, taking the cloth to his lips first, and wincing as the cleaner it was impregnated with made his cut sting.
Bodie still stood in the doorway.
So Doyle first cleaned his face and hands, and then took off his tunic and wiped down his sweaty torso, and Bodie watched, a bit of a smile on his face. Doyle put on his tunic, straightened it, and turned to leave the small room. Bodie stepped back to let him out, and when it was clear Doyle was leaving the room, he moved up beside him.
"Where are we going?" Bodie asked.
"I," Doyle said, "am going to buy some clothing." His attitude said he did not care what Bodie did.
"Oh, good. Maybe we can find you something brighter. I don't like that dark blue on you."
Doyle said, "What you like is of no concern of mine."
"Of course it is. I'm paying for it, after all" Bodie told him.
"No. You're not. And why should you?" Doyle asked, curiosity tugging the question from him.
"I was responsible for ruining the only one you have. Only right I should replace it. Besides, it'd be expected of me. Newly matched, you know. Showering you with tokens of my affection."
Bodie laughed. "They'll think I'm very passionate, that I ripped it off of you in my hurry to love you."
It was what Doyle had been thinking. Once again he had the odd feeling Bodie had almost read his mind. "They'll think you're an animal."
"Oh, they'll take one look at you and understand! Besides, they'll think it's what you wanted--you picked me," Bodie countered.
Probably they would. Doyle headed for the door, Bodie following. Once out in the corridor, there was the gravity strip to deal with. Doyle was starting to feel tired. The gravity changes sucked the strength out of his limbs. No doubt one could get used to it, in time.
"It's this way," Bodie said, once they were at an intersection, and he led the way. Doyle followed him, not so lost in his black mood and his tiredness that he failed to watch the people around him. So when two men coming from the other direction jostled Bodie hard enough to knock him down or away from the gravity strip, his hand was out even before it happened, steadying Bodie and preventing him from going down.
"Thanks, mate," Bodie said absently, his eyes following the two, who were already out of sight.
"You think they did it on purpose?" Doyle asked.
Bodie shrugged. "The most harm it would do is a sprained ankle. Those are common here, especially amongst the tourists." Bodie was moving again, but said nothing more until they came to the row of shops and services on the main level.
Space was at a premium on the moon, and the shops were not quite as they were back home in the city. Hologram advertisements lined each small room. Passing by the booths which offered moon rocks set in plastic or made into jewelry, Bodie led the way into the largest of the stores.
"You'll need a bag. A tooth and health pack. Lotion of some sort. These ships are either too humid or too dry. You're not one of those idiots who kept your beard, are you?" Bodie wanted to know.
Doyle shook his head.
"Good. Noticed you kept the rest of the body hair, though," Bodie said, with a trace of appreciation in his voice. He gave Doyle no chance to react to that, but held out the nearest chair.
Doyle took it. He wrote in his measurements and preferences on the panel and then punched the button which brought up tunics.
"That one?" Bodie asked, a few minutes later. "Rather like the one you have on, but a little lighter." He was standing behind Doyle, and now he leaned over him and punched the button which put the number into a reference file. Doyle went on looking at the pictures.
"I like that," Bodie said awhile later, but this time, Doyle hit the 'next' button before Bodie could reach out. "I'm beginning to think you hold a grudge, love. Very unattractive feature in a mate," Bodie whispered into Doyle's ear.
Doyle ignored him.
"You don't need anything to sleep in. You have to be nude while in Jump, you know, or wear special suits." Bodie said.
"Yes, I know."
"Well, at least you spoke to me," Bodie said.
Doyle made his selections, stood up and tilted his head towards the chair and said, "Going to sign that?"
"What, for all of it?" Bodie demanded, punching the button for the total and making a face. He scrolled though the items, changed the blue to a deep green on the tunic, and then, to Doyle's surprise, Bodie signed, and then set his thumbprint on it, paying for the lot. "You'd better be worth it," he joked.
"You're buying good will, Bond, and nothing else," Doyle said sharply.
"And worth every point of it," Bodie assured him. "Where would you like to go next? Can watch the ships take off from the observation panel."
"I'm going to sleep," Doyle told him, picking up his bundle from the front desk. When Bodie said nothing, he looked up. "I expected a little innuendo, and a smart remark. You feeling okay?"
"I'm feeling the need for a nap myself," Bodie told him. "Been all go for two days now. Question is, are you going to object to sharing our bed?"
"No. You'll keep your hands--and everything else--to yourself. I have your word on it, after all," Doyle said.
"I could change your mind," Bodie said, but so lightly that Doyle did not react.
They went through the corridors again, with Bodie in the lead as before, but nothing exceptional happened and they were soon back in the tiny room. "Keep the torn tunic here in the locker they assign to you," Bodie said as Doyle put down the bag. "No use wasting energy hauling it to Mars."
"I had managed to think that out for myself," Doyle said, going over and testing the bed. It did not seem to be very soft.
Bodie lifted a shoulder in a half shrug, as if dismissing Doyle's comment. He began to take his clothing off, folding it and putting it away in his bag.
Doyle, who was doing the same, found his eyes straying, almost against his will, towards the other man. Muscles. Plain white underthings. A near perfect form, built on the sturdy side.
Except what was on top of his head, he had no hair on his body, Permanently removed? Such a thing wasn't unheard of, although it was odd enough to catch Doyle's interest. Why had Bodie done it? It created a strange effect. It made Bodie's body look like a smooth statue, formed from, white marble. By a master artist. Hard curves.
If Bodie noticed Doyle's interest, he made no mention of it. He only stretched, twisted his body left and right, and then with his back to Doyle, he reached up, turned off, and then removed the privacy collar. His face was turned away as he crawled into the bed. Quite slowly, Doyle did the same thing, careful to stay entirely on his own side, so that he did not realize at first that Bodie had made an effort not to let his face be seen. Bodie put his hand on the light control and dimmed the lights to the lowest setting.
Why was that? What reason could there be for keeping his true appearance from Doyle? Was he ugly? That didn't seem likely. A collar distorted features just a little, and Bodie gave the impression of being a handsome man. The picture on his ID had been of a handsome man.
But, anyone could be handsome. All it took was surgery, and perhaps half the population had their appearance enhanced at some stage of their life. Privacy collars were often used while one healed, as a kindness to the general public. That didn't feel right to the Pro instinct stirring in Doyle. Citizens had surgery as teenagers, or they began at mid-life to repair the damages of time. Few people changed in the peak years, and Bodie's body was that of a man in mature perfection.
He turned his mind from that, determined to get the sleep his body required. Comfort illuded him. He twisted, trying to find a spot which welcomed him.
It was quite odd. The blanket was a heavy one, and he realized after a moment that this was deliberate, giving one the impression of being anchored. Low gravity affected the way he rested, every move enhanced and awkward. Nothing was quite as it should be.
"It helps if you cuddle up," Bodie told him, light amusement in his tone.
The problem was, it was probably true. Doyle refused to even consider that solution. He forced himself to be still, knowing that if he did not, Bodie would be perfectly within his rights to make a comment or to order him to be still.
He was tired, it had been a long day and a strange one. All sorts of images swirled thought his brain, so that he was too full of them to properly court sleep. Some time later he became aware of the soft sound breathing and he knew his companion was asleep.
It was that regular, soothing sound which finally lured him at last into his own slumber.
Hours later, much refreshed, he eased out of bed to go use the toilet. He was curious enough to throw a glance at Bodie's face, but the other man had it buried in the crook of an arm. Once up, Doyle decided to take advantage of being away from prying eyes, and he stayed in the small relief room and washed himself completely, top to bottom. He was a bit stiff from the strenuous activity of the day before, and he felt an ache in every part of his body from the gravity shifts, but he was also rested and hungry.
Bodie was up and dressed, privacy collar in place, when Doyle came out into the main room.
"I thought you were going to grow old in there," Bodie claimed, pushing past as if he were in a hurry to use the facilities himself. Considering how Bodie had stuffed himself the day before, Doyle thought, it was probably true.
Doyle pulled on his new clothing, combed out his hair and spent the time while he waited for Bodie doing the light exercises each Pro was supposed to practice daily. This had the unfortunate result of increasing his hunger, and he knew they would not be eating breakfast on the moon.
"Ready for your physical?" Bodie asked, and Doyle looked up to see the CI5 man leaning on the wall, watching him again. "The doctor can take my word for it--your shape's in excellent shape," Bodie told him.
"Don't you ever let your rather juvenile sense of humor rest?" Doyle snapped. He regretted the privacy collar. It annoyed him. The nuances of a face, which he relied on so often to make his judgements, was denied to him, and he resented it.
"Of course," he said with suitable gravity. But then he grinned. "When I make love," Bodie told him. "I know what's serious!"
"If you don't stop your comments, I will Declare, with a harassment charge, the moment we return to earth," Doyle said.
"What's objectionable about what I said?" Bodie protested. "A simple truth, in answer to a question you asked. Give it a rest, Pro. Be human like the rest of us!"
"In your case, the humanity is debatable," Doyle, told him acidly.
"I may have to Declare, myself, for repeated insult. Works both ways, Dearest. Ready to go?" Bodie was repacking his bag as he spoke, folding down his security unit last.
"Will we be coming back?" Doyle asked. Not that this room held may charms. He went over to close his own bag. There, he paused, and after a moment, he took out the match ribbon and tied it around his sleeve. Bodie was wearing his, after all.
"After the physical, we might as well look over the moon, see the sights. Want to go outside, try a moonwalk?" Bodie asked.
"At those prices, no," Doyle told him.
"Meaning you'll do it if I cough up the money? I can see where you're going to be expensive to keep," Bodie told him. "You sure you're worth it?" Bodie was teasing again, giving a leer towards Doyle's rear end as he spoke.
"Meaning I don't believe in indecent profit. I once looked into the costs and returns of that particular business, for a case I had an interest in, and the figures showed a profit just under the legal limit." Doyle hefted his bag, deciding that he was well within the weight allowance. He did not look at Bodie.
"Something tells me you and I have some basic philosophical differences, Love," Bodie said, shaking his head sadly.
"You like profit, do you?" Doyle asked pointedly.
"It's not a dirty word," Bodie said. "Points aren't a bad thing."
"They are if someone else is deprived that you might have them." Doyle did not want to get into an argument with Bodie. He headed for the door, bag in hand.
"The law puts reasonable limits on profits. Are you saying the law is wrong? That the limits should be stricter?" Bodie asked, coming along behind with his own bag.
"No, the law isn't wrong. It's all the people trying to circumvent the law I have no use for." Doyle added, "It's the attitude some people have. Rubs me the wrong way."
"I can see that. Going to run for political office?" Bodie asked.
"Study hard, attain Higher rank, finally get an elected position when I'm seventy? Not for me. That's not the way to make a difference, at least, not for me."
"So you became a Pro? Bet that's an exciting life, sorting out the double-laners on the slipwalks," Bodie mocked. "If you really want to make a difference, why don't you join CI5?"
"I tried once. You had your slots filled." Doyle shrugged it off. "Are you ready to go?"
Bodie opened the door, and they stepped out onto the gravity strip. It was all Doyle could do not to groan as he felt the pull on his sore legs, but he kept his opinion to himself as they went down to the clinic.
It was a standard unit, with three cubicles and a physician on duty. The physical was almost identical to the one Doyle took every three months. Nude, he stepped into the machine, put his arms and feet into the appropriate slings and depressions, and waited while it hummed and clicked and tested fifty different aspects of his blood and other bodily fluids, peered into his body, took his temperature and snipped off a bit of hair.
"Rating?" he asked the bored looking physician as he put on his clothing.
"94.5. Quite good. Your muscles show some sign of fatigue. If you find the gravity changes debilitating, please request a supplement to your meal. Thank you." The man entered the numbers into the record and turned to look at the next set. Bodie's, as it happened. Doyle stayed near enough to listen in on what the physician said to Bodie.
"Thank you. Your rating is 97.1. Your muscles show some sigh of fatigue. If you....." He stopped as Bodie waved him to silence.
"New match, you know," Bodie said in a mock whisper, most of his attention on Doyle as he watched for a reaction. "He wore me out," he confided, as Doyle's green eyes flashed.
"I suggest you request a supplement at meals." The man was already turning his attention to the next client.
Bodie dressed, slung his bag over his shoulder and stepped out onto the gravity strip. "Glad he's not my regular. Lovely attentive manner, hasn't he?"
Doyle didn't answer.
"Mad at me? For what? Teasing you? All matches tease. Besides, I was bragging, wasn't I? Not everybody can pull a little raver like you."
Doyle still had nothing to say.
"You're beautiful, but you have no sense of humor," Bodie said, sadly shaking his head. "Just my luck to get hitched to a lad with a temper. Fortunately, you've lovely manners. Wouldn't dare scream at me in public, would you?"
Doyle switched strips, taking a turn and then heading towards an upper level.
"I see we're heading towards the entertainment level. Have a sudden desire to see a show?" Bodie asked.
"I," Doyle said, "am signing up for the educational tour."
Bodie made a face. "You don't want to do that. Very dull stuff, take my word for it."
Doyle found the right section, and joined the line of tourists there.
"Don't do this to me," Bodie said melodramatically, although he kept his voice down.
"You don't have to come," Doyle pointed out reasonably.
"Look funny for me to leave my match on the honeymoon, wouldn't it?" Bodie followed along as Doyle found the right line and joined the end of it. At least half the people in this line wore match ribbons. These were undoubtedly up on one of the overnight excursions, and out to see all the moon sights.
The walls had informational panels about the history of moon exploration, and reproductions of the views outside. They walked thought the large, padded room which featured moon-norm gravity and watched an exhibition of low gravity Wild Ball played on a large court in the same building. The tour ended in a room which featured a professional music rack and dancing.
"This is more like it!" Bodie said, as the music became louder. "They didn't have this the last time I was up here. Come dance, Feather!"
Doyle pulled out of his grasp. "I decline," he said, in frosty tones.
"All the other matches are," Bodie whispered in his ear. "Be fun to try dancing in moon gravity, won't it?" As it seemed that the dancing required a lot of desperate clutching and giggles as one partner or the other applied too much force and caused them both to lurch off center, it was ideal for new matches wanting an excuse to touch in public.
"We have to report," Doyle said, with a nod to the wall panel which displayed the time.
It was true. Bodie said, "On the trip back, maybe we'll have time to do it then." Noticing Doyle's stubborn look, he added, "I have the whole trip to talk you into it, don't I?"
"Your persistent, I'll grant you that," Doyle told him as they headed back to the port level.
"It's one of my most useful characteristics. I'm starving," he added, as they passed a dining room. "I wish they didn't limit us to no food before take off."
Doyle said, "How long before we eat?"
"Well, if they get us on board right away, it will be about an hour from now. We'll hope for the best," he said cheerfully, "the best being, in this case, trays and trays of those little bits of food they serve, where you help yourself to as much as you want."
"You like your food, don't you?" Doyle said, amused in spite of himself.
"Comes of being without it upon occasion. Long hours in--my job," he explained, when Doyle turned toward him, a question on his lips. "Here we are," he added, before Doyle could speak. They joined the end of a short line. Someone stepped in behind them almost at once, and soon they were in the middle of the line of quietly excited people.
They did not board the shuttle at once, but were ushered into a theater, where they sat in comfortable chairs in front of a ceiling to floor screen. When the room was full, a tall woman, wearing the Geode colors, took the speaker's platform at the right of the screen.
"Welcome to the most exciting trip you will ever have," the woman said. "I'm Arra Lee, and I am in charge of passenger welfare on this trip to Mars. I am going to explain the details of Jump travel, and a few of the rules, and then we will board the shuttle, and we can take off. As soon as we're stabilized, we'll eat--I'm sure many of you have been waiting to hear that!" She paused while the polite laughter dwindled.
"We will take about six hours to get out to where the Jump ship, the Geode, waits for us. On the way to the Geode, we'll get acquainted with the other passengers, and there will be more educational lectures. Jump," she said, "is a strange way to travel, as I am sure you have heard. It will seem to you as if the trip lasts only three days, when in fact, it will take a full three to five weeks. Our pilot will explain why the trips never take the same amount of time. Our medical officer will tell you about the physical and mental adaptions which take place, and how best to deal with them. Then we'll hear from a legal representative. Once we board the Geode, there will be a few more explanations and drills, and then we can get under way."
Bodie shifted in his seat until his knee touched Doyle's. Doyle pointedly moved his away, aware of the mirth under Bodie's bland expression. He turned all his attention to the speakers. Always a good student, he found the presentation repetitive. Not all of his attention stayed on the speakers. Some of it remained fastened on the man beside him.
Bodie. No, Bond. Best to think of him as Bond. He thought of last night. Not at all how he expected to spend his match night, with a big, solid lunk like that. At least he hadn't been too obnoxious. No grabbing at him, or making comments about his body, or trying to insist they carry out this farce to the extent of making love together.
The man had a big cock.
Where had that thought come from? Doyle felt his face go red, and was thankful that the lights had been lowered to show a tape of safety practices on board ship. He tried to force his attention on the tape, but it kept sliding back to that odd thought. What did he care what sort of personal equipment the man had? Nothing unusual about it, really. Nothing to do with him.
It was because he was in a situation where sex was on the mind, he told himself. A match trip. Everyone knew how new matches hardly got out of bed the first week. Only logical. If a person followed the government guidelines and had sex only when in a match or seriously considering a match, then of course a match trip was the first chance for unlimited sexual expression.
Not that many people followed the guidelines perfectly. Doyle himself had bedded several dozen women since he had become an adult. He'd used care, of course, following all the safety precautions to prevent disease, and making sure he did not treat his partners casually. Men and women who became promiscuous found themselves registered with the government. The embarrassment of such a thing kept many people honest.
Was Bodie registered? He had an easy attitude towards sex. It would be on his record. The record Doyle had seen at the match had not had that sort of designation mentioned on it, but that record had been for Bond, for a fictitious person. What was on Bodie's real records?
And why did Doyle want to know? It wasn't as if he were really matched with this neanderthal. He wasn't what Doyle wanted--Bodie was not at all like Ann.
Thinking of Ann was a mistake. Ann. He remembered her perfume, remembered what she had felt like in his arms. Under him. Ann had enjoyed what they did in bed. She'd had just enough experience to be comfortable with bedding him and yet not so much that she was not delighted with the things he could teach her. She'd been so startled the first time he'd kissed his way down from her waist to the junction of her thighs. He remembered the silvery sound of her laughter, and the catch in her voice as he touched....
The prod of a hard finger in his ribs brought him to the present. He focused on the screen, realizing they had finally come to the vital information. The glance he shot Bodie's way was not grateful, however.
Bodie didn't seem to mind the poisonous look. He only gave the screen his full attention until they had moved on to less vital facts and figures.
"You always stare off into space like that during vids?" Bodie asked as the lights came up again. "I won't waste my points taking you to first run shows if you do. Could tell you weren't paying proper attention," he admonished.
Doyle gave him a second poisonous look.
"You're beautiful when you're angry," Bodie said, with such artificial fervor that a short laugh was surprised from Doyle in spite of himself, and Bodie wore a satisfied look at having caused it.
"Fond of cliches, Bond?" Doyle asked. "That one's pre-flight!"
"Such an educated thought! But so formal, love? Call me Wil. Just...." He had to stop as the next film began. They were old style presentations, just sight and sound on a flat surface. They didn't hold his attention until the doctor began the one on sex and the Jump process. Beside him, Doyle moved, as if restless, but watched just as avidly as the rest of the audience.
It turned out that no one did anything at all during the process of the Jump itself. It was in the hours before and after that held possibilities. Jump, they discovered, was not an instantaneous process. The fields wound up to Jump point, and then wound down again afterwards. Near to the Jump, and during the Jump itself, perceptions in side the ship were warped and judgement, too. Outside the ship, time and space skipped a beat.
Very clinically, sex during Jump was discussed. Sex in regular zero gee was almost impossible, and even dangerous. The jump field changed just enough of the factors involved so that sex became not only possible, but desirable. The explanation was technical, and Doyle didn't try to understand all of it as the man rattled off the details. All that he needed to know was that they were warned about starting too early or lingering too long over their mutual congress. Warnings would be broadcast during non-safe times, and the walls would have similar messages.
After a series of rather graphic pictures illustrating what might happen to one who ignored these the rules, and showing the procedures for preparing for Jump, the other hazards of the process were listed. At the end, the standard disclaimer, reminding them all that the risk was level ten and that normal insurance packages did not handle that level of risk, was followed by the reminder that the cost of the trip had included special insurance and that the risk percentage was only 5.3.
"5.3?" Bodie sat up at that. Discovering that five people out of a hundred were injured or killed during these trips opened his eyes. Then they narrowed as he considered it. "Wonder how many people turn back at this point?"
"Not very many," Doyle whispered. "Doesn't seem to bother these people at all," he said, with a nod to the crowd.
"Bothers me. If I die, I don't want blip out while floating naked. No dignity to it."
Doyle pursed his lips. "Dignity?" he asked tartly, as if the word was impossible to consider in the same breath as Bodie's name.
"Very dignified, I am. You'll find out." Bodie waggled his eyebrows, earning him a dark look from both Doyle and the next speaker.
At last, however, they boarded the shuttle. At the door they were asked their match number, and for the first time, Doyle recited it off. He almost stumbled over it. He'd been rehearsing saying AH during the last few weeks. Not WB. They went in and strapped down for the take-off. While it was much easier, due to the light gravity of the moon, there was still a few moments of nausea, which recurred after the artificial gravity cut in. Once underway, however, everyone unstrapped and headed towards the buffet laid out on tablets up front.
Bodie attacked it with enthusiasm, piling his tray high, and Doyle found that he, too, was hungry. They returned to their seats and said little at first while the mounds of food disappeared.
"I'll never be able to afford you," Doyle said, when most of the food was gone. "Bet all your pay goes to your stomach."
"A good chunk of it," Bodie agreed cheerfully. "But I've saved enough points to get us a lovely two-room when we get home, don't you worry!"
"Only a two room? Tsk, I've got one of those already!" Doyle protested. It was playing a game, pretending to be actually matched, but it forced him to recall the discussions he's had with Ann. She'd had a three-room, and expected him to move in with her until they could find one even bigger. It had bothered him, and it bothered him even more that he now felt a sense of relief as he realized he did not have to move. He liked his place. He lived near friends and co-workers.
"Do you? Then I'll move into yours. I only have a cell, myself." Cell was slang for a one room place, and it was a common arrangement for singles. At the expression of dismay on Doyle's face, Bodie laughed.
Doyle was ready with a sharp reply, but Arra Lee had stood up and asked for their attention. "We're going to become better acquainted," the woman said brightly. Bodie and Doyle each glanced at the other, sharing a mutual antipathy towards the entire idea. "We have business associates, tourists and, of course, new matches here, all going to the red planet. Now, on the shuttle in to Mars, we'll tell you more about Earth's nearest neighbor, but right now, please turn to your nearest neighbor--now, not your match!--and introduce yourself."
Bodie said something very impolite under his breath, which put a smile on Doyle's face as he turned to the woman beside him. Bodie was forced to turn the other way and greet a large friendly man who introduced himself as Kurt Donely, who had crossed the aisle to have someone to greet.
The lady Doyle spoke to, Talla Dru, in turn introduced her new match, Terry Arello. There was no time to start a conversation, for Arra Lee was asking each person to stand up when introduced. It was a long process, and meanwhile the food was being cleared away, to Bodie's obvious regret.
"Now," Arra Lee said when the last person had stood to be recognized, "We have an exercise unit here. For, your health, we ask that each person put in at least fifteen minutes in the unit during this shuttle trip. You are also urged to attend to any personal exercise regimes you might have. I know room is at a premium, but I'm sure we can accommodate you all. To help you all along, I'll be leading in-place upper body routines in just awhile. Are there any questions?"
"No," Bodie breathed, dripping sarcasm. Fortunately, only Doyle could hear it.
Doyle found himself feeling glad he wasn't really matched to this man; Bodie had serious character flaws. Doyle ignored him and got up and began going through his own series of exercises.
"Give yourself away that way. Pure Pro, those are," Bodie commented as he began his own stretches.
"So? I'm a Pro. No reason to hide that, is there? Your problem, Bond, is you're not used to straightforward situations." Doyle was sweating a little. Artificial gravity, he was learning, was harder on the muscles than the natural stuff. For one thing, it was not an even and steady pull, but a fluxuating one. Too, the gravity was a bit less on the edges of the craft.
Doyle was aware, as he struggled, of Bodie doing his own series of stretches and bends at his side. Fluid motions, but done with a strange precision. Effortlessly, too, damn him.
The instincts of a Pro kicked in, and Doyle thought about Bodie as he moved his body through the familiar routine. Doyle did some of his best thinking while exercising. Was it the increased blood flowing to the brain? Or was it just because as he moved, he had a quiet moment to think, undistracted by job or other outside considerations? At any rate, as he watched Bodie twist and reach, he found his inquisitive mind working on Bodie as if he were a puzzle to be solved. Take all the parts which were Bodie, sort them, and build them into a whole, and what did you have?
CI5 agent. Excellent physical rating--over 97! Travelled, for he'd been to the moon before. Wealth? Some perhaps, given his attitude towards acquiring points, but not rich. Hairless except for his head. No close family connections, although it might be that he had them and just didn't talk about them. Single? Probably, although technically matched at the moment. Doyle took another look at Bodie.
Strange exercises. Not the sort taught in schools. Not the sort taught in the Pro Academy. Sharp. Powerful. The base for a martial art, perhaps. Was this what was taught in CI5? CI5 had special training programs, he knew.
If Doyle's movements were pure Pro, what were Bodie's? Something about the man bothered him. It wasn't necessarily his personality, although that was sometimes difficult to take. It wasn't just one thing, but a combination. Doyle had the feeling there were clues he had missed. Something....
It came to him between one breath and the next, but at first he dismissed the idea with a shake of his head. Just because...but if.... He shook his head again to free it from the confusion of thoughts, and threw himself into his exercises. The work didn't drive the idea from his head, but at least it gave him time to control himself.
He turned the idea around, examining it from all sides. Bodie? A Soldier? It explained so much. Didn't Soldiers have all body hair removed permanently because of those battle suits they trained in? The only reason they kept their head hair was to cushion the battle helmets. They had their own defense training center and were required to always be in good physical shape. Bodie's 97 fitness and health rating came back to Doyle's mind. His own was usually in the 95 range, and he had a pride in his rating which, he had to admit to himself now, had been jolted by hearing Bodie's. But a member of an army unit would get training, and even medical alteration, to bring him--or her--to the peak of ability.
Doyle, along with the rest of society, had mixed feelings about the Army, about soldiers, about the tax money spent to support them, and about the need for them at all. After all, there hadn't been a real war fought on Earth for several hundred years. There was no need for armies any more, and indeed, it was illegal for an individual or a government to support an armed force.
It had also been argued, back at the time of the Last War, that evil as war might be, the skills of it should not be lost. What if we met aliens intent on taking over the Earth, some had argued. Or what if, against all odds, someone did manage to raise an army? Then the earth would be helpless and all lost. Better, it was said, to pass on the secrets of war to a select few, who would in turn pass the information on to the next generation. Strictly monitored, carefully balanced.
He knew that the requirements were stiff, that if a person wished to be a Soldier, they would be tested, both mentally and physically, before they were allowed to even apply. Intelligence, loyalty, practical common sense--all the virtues were there.
Along with the ability to kill.
As a Pro, Doyle knew that the rumor that each soldier, in order to gain rank in the Army, had to kill another soldier, was just that. It persisted despite the constant efforts of the public relations crews to counter it. The truth was, to Doyle's eyes, almost as bad. The mock battles held each year always had casualties. It was the Army's way of testing both their offensive and defensive forces, of testing their medical units, even. But pitting friend against friend, person against person, to the point of death--it was barbaric!
Bodie? A Soldier?
Yet, that made sense. Bodie, working for a security agency, could make use of his Army skills, and be able to take leave for training or the Battle. Too, it was clear that an organization such as CI5 could have a use for a man who could kill. Not necessarily one who would, but one who could.
People did not kill people any more. Not officially. Doyle, and any Pro, knew there were still murders. He had no illusions about human nature. Once and awhile, jealous rage won out over the training everyone received in childhood. Occasionally, the tests each person took at regular intervals missed the signs of unbalance, and death followed. But not often. When it did happen, the instant retribution of society prevented recurrence. One cup of Wipe, and the mind was a cleared disk. Most of those people were retrained for low level jobs. Or, of course, one could choose the other cup, choose to just go to sleep, forever.
"What's the matter?"
Doyle blinked and looked around. Beside him, Bodie had finished his routine and was staring at him.
"Are you with us?" Bodie asked, giving him a poke in the ribs with one hard finger. Doyle pushed the hand away and scowled. "Have these fits often? You should have warned me before we were matched," Bodie said, sitting down. He wasn't even sweating. Doyle increased his scowl, but latched on that as an excuse.
"You aren't even damp," he complained.
"Told you, you were getting a bargain. I'm perfect, you know. Fine mind, fine body, fine...."
"Ego?" Doyle enquired, too kindly.
"What an old-fashioned word! Still, it's nice to know you've a brain. Well read? Do that much?" Bodie asked.
In fact, Doyle did read more than the average citizen. But confessing to reading would imply that he was studying, that he planned to take the examinations to become a Higher. He wasn't. He read what interested him, for no other reason than that. He just shrugged.
Bodie did not peruse the matter.
"I'm going to the relief station," Doyle said. Bodie stood up as well. "I don't need your help!" he snapped.
"Raymond! They'll think you don't love me! of course I'm going to the station with you!" He winked.
It was what a new-matched couple might do. As it was not polite to kiss in public, many matches went with their other half to the relief room, even if they did not have to 'go'. A piss-and-kiss trip, the crude called it. Doyle did not argue, but concentrated as he pulled himself carefully over to the aisle. Damn the gravity.
There was a line. He hid his annoyance. Bodie stood too closely behind him. At least he didn't try anything once the door closed behind them and they were alone in the small cubicle. Doyle used the unit as if he were alone and Bodie did the same. After emptying their bladders, they cleaned up, wiping down with the medicated air-weave sheets provided. It was awkward in the small room.
The whole place smelled of Bodie, Doyle thought as he watched the other man draw the square of cleaner over his body. Then the room smelled of the chemicals, and Doyle was glad to get out of it.
They were joined at their seats by Talla Dru and Terry Arello, the newly matched pair they had met before. Talla looked a bit like Ann, Doyle realized, although Ann had hair with just a hint of red in it. He imagined, briefly, how it would have been to meet these two with Ann by his side. They'd have made a four and spent time together. He couldn't imagine doing that with Bodie.
"Isn't this exciting?" Terry asked. He was a small man, trim and muscular, who wore a mustache in the newest style.
Bodie made a polite nod, but met Doyle's eye. His glance said that his definition of exciting didn't include exercise and conversation with strangers while in a cramped room, but that he understood the necessity for being polite under the circumstances. It also said he could think of quite a few other things, intimate things, to do which were more exciting. Doyle smiled to show Bodie he understood, then frowned a warning while wondering that he could read so much in a moment of contact with Bodie's eyes.
"I've got a Gameboard, if you'd like to play, later," Terry added hopefully. His match nodded enthusiastically.
"I'm sorry, but we won't be able to play," Bodie said, and only Doyle knew that he was not sorry at all. Bodie leaned closer and whispered, "Can't keep my mind on the game around him," he said, with a nod at Doyle.
Doyle managed a pale smile when two pairs of eyes were turned on him. "Come on, Sweetest," Doyle said, barely keeping the acid out of his voice, and he tugged Bodie away.
When they were almost out of range, he heard Talla complain to her match, "Take a lesson! He knows how to...." The rest of it was lost, but Terry did not look happy.
Bodie said, "Imagine taking up two pounds of your ten pound limit with a Gameboard!" They had returned to their seats and were watching the people.
"Everybody knows someone like that. I've seen people play them on the slipwalks," Doyle answered. "Causes no end of trouble when they block the way."
"Ever see that gent in the green?" Bodie asked, without warning. He was not looking at the person he was describing, who was doing waiting in line to use the exercise unit.
Doyle took the abrupt change of subject in stride. He did not look at the man Bodie indicated. He knew what was meant. "He came up with us on the shuttle yesterday."
Bodie nodded, but added nothing more.
After a minute of silence, Doyle said, "Maybe we should have taken the man up on his offer of a game."
"Nah. That sort--they play Trips or Funny Facts. No fun to it or real skill involved, is there?"
Doyle stared at him. "What game do you prefer?"
Bodie gave him a quick grin, white teeth flashing and his blue eye sparkling, but all between a blur. Doyle scowled. Damn privacy collar. Made it hard to read the nuances. Hard? Bloody impossible.
"Besides bed games," Doyle said disparagingly.
"Poker," Bodie said. "It's an old card game. Pity we didn't bring any cards."
"One of the things you learned in the Army, was it?" Doyle asked mildly. He was rewarded when Bodie went absolutely still.
Eventually, Bodie spoke. "Aren't you the clever lad, then?" he asked softly. But he didn't acknowledge or deny anything, and after a moment he said, "The Geode is the newest of the Jump ships, isn't it?"
"I wouldn't know," Doyle said, although he did. He let his lips turn up in a smile. It was not a nice smile.
"What I wouldn't give for a chance to take that smile off your face," Bodie said in a sexy voice. "I could do it--if you gave me a chance."
"You're trying to distract me. What if I don't let you change the subject?" Doyle asked.
"There's a time and a place for everything. This is our match trip. I'm the one acting just as I should. You're the one who's forgetting," Bodie said, with a superior lift to his chin.
Doyle was going to reply, but Arra Lee stopped before them to ask if they wished to watch the current events program which would be shown in a few minutes. They politely declined, and she moved on. Doyle watched her move away for just a fraction longer than was polite.
"Like her sort? All legs and wiggle?" Bodie whispered crudely into Doyle's ear.
Doyle jerked his eyes away. "That was not a nice thing to say about a citizen," he said evenly.
"I notice you didn't answer me," Bodie said. "I must be a bit of a disappointment, then. What was she like, this Ann? Like that one?" he nodded at Arra Lee.
"No. Shorter. Thin. Good family. Lots of brain." Even as he spoke, Doyle was wondering at himself, not only because he had answered the question but because he had reduced Ann to her basic components so easily. It was a Pros' answer, not a lover's. Feeling he was saying too much, showing too much, he added, "Your opposite in every way, I'd say."
"Ouch!" Bodie said, but he did not seem personally insulted, because he grinned. He started to say something, but then changed his mind. "I have a plan. You watch the people, while I lean back and kip for a bit."
"Sleep? Doyle asked, amazed at the thought.
Bodie nodded, apparently undisturbed at the idea. "I suppose it'd be too much if I stretched out across three of these chairs and used your lap as a pillow? I thought as much," he said, before Doyle had a chance to protest. He yawned, his hand politely up to cover it, and then slumped in his chair, head on his chest.
Doyle, left to his own devices, found he was looking at his fellow passengers to avoid looking at the man beside him. Outrageous behavior! How could he sleep, knowing everyone could look at him? They were, too. He heard the sound of whispering and saw a pointing finger or two. Couldn't really blame others for a minor lapse of manners when his own match was lapsing on a larger scale!
At least there weren't children here. Nor had there been children on the moon. Except for a few youngsters with medical problems, children were prohibited from space travel. The gravity shifts, and especially no gravity situations, damaged bone growth. Doyle didn't miss them. Children were the hardest type of citizens to keep an eye on, and without them, it was easy to watch the public.
The man in the green tunic whom Bodie had pointed out earlier had two companions, both men who were broad and well muscled. They were now seated in an informal circle, so that they could watch most of the room. Doyle had a feeling about them, but it was a feeling he found it hard to pin down.
"They're keeping an eye on us."
It was all Doyle could do not to jump. He hadn't even known Bodie was awake. Bodie stretched and pulled himself upright in his chair.
"When do they bring the food out again?" Bodie asked next.
"We're scheduled for a buffet of light fruit forms just before we board the Geode."
"Better than a hand-held, for providing information, aren't you? Guess I'll keep you," Bodie said. "We'll be one of those pairs the president honors on holidays. Fifty years of bliss, eh?"
"You have a sick mind," Doyle told him.
"We started too late, I suppose," Bodie agreed sadly. "Guess we'll have to go for some other records," he said with a wink.
"Don't you get tired of the juvenile innuendo?" Doyle asked conversationally.
"You don't think I trot out my best lines for just anyone, do you, Sunshine? You should be honored." Bodie leaned forward, making their space seem intimate and small.
Doyle forced himself not to move away. "We'll try to pick you up some better ones on Mars," he said, aware that it was not the wittiest reply he could have made, but aware, too, of the force of Bodie's personality and the strangeness of being the focus of those slightly distorted blue eyes.
"Can't afford it at Mars prices. We'll have to wait until we're back home." To Doyle's relief, Bodie sat up as he spoke, destroying the sense of togetherness.
Arra Lee came up to them. "Have you been to the exerciser yet?" she asked pleasantly.
"We're keeping ourselves at the end of the list," Bodie said smoothly. "High end numbers, you know. It might be necessary for some of the others to have the time. Not so vital for us, since we've done our regular program already."
Arra Lee gracefully sank into the chair nearest them. "Why, how generous of you! It's certainly true that we're running a little behind. I did see you both," she said, letting her appreciation of what she had seen show in her eyes, "exercising. I thought of what a lovely couple you made." She leaned forward a little, and added, "I don't in any way wish to be rude, but the picture would have been just perfect if you weren't wearing a privacy collar, Mr. Bond. Surely the scars can't be that bad now?"
Beside him, Bodie had gone completely still.
"I know the doctors wouldn't have allowed you to come on this trip if your adjustments were recent, so you must be almost healed. Rest assured, if you wish to take the collar off, I'm sure no one will give you undue attention."
"That's very kind of you," Doyle said, when Bodie didn't reply, "but he's promised I get to be the first to see it, and we've planned a little something special for it. You understand. A bit of a party for two, when we get back home."
"He's made himself a new face for you?" She turned, with a combination of awe and just a little amazement in her eyes. "That's sweet! You don't hear of such things, often."
Or never, Doyle thought. What sort of idiot would ask his lover to change something as basic as a face? You fell in love with a package, didn't you, not just one or two aspects of a person? He thought about Ann, uneasily. She'd more than once asked him to consider changing professions. But a job wasn't like a face, not as intimate, he began to think, and then stopped, for he had not convinced himself.
"How in the world can you endure the suspense? Don't you have the impulse to--peek?" Arra Lee was asking.
"I wonder what's under that collar all the time," Doyle said with complete honesty. "But I'm willing to wait. I'm sure it will be worth it!"
"Well, you'll have to take it off during Jump, you know. Will that ruin your plans?" Arra Lee asked.
"He's promised not to look. Besides, he'll have other things to occupy his attention," Bodie joked.
Arra Lee laughed, said she could understand that, traded a few more pleasantries and then moved on.
"Bastard," Bodie said. It was an old word with several meanings, but Bodie's intent was quite clear!
"You never have explained what you hide under there. Or why. Ugly, are you?" Doyle asked, sure that it was not so.
"Quite the opposite," Bodie said smoothly. "For protection, you know. Don't want my beauty to blind anyone. Can't afford to keep paying off the claims."
Doyle snorted inelegantly, grinning at his companion. "I'll take my chances!"
"Oh? What else will you take?" Bodie said suggestively.
"A trip to the relief station. I want to go before the lines start to form. We should be almost to the Geode, by now."
"Let's go, then," Bodie said, standing. He took Doyle by the hand and gave a pull.
"You can let my hand go now," Doyle said dryly.
"Can hardly bear to let you go," Bodie said, but he did release the hand--but not until his thumb had rubbed against Doyle's palm in a disturbingly erotic way.
"Don't start that," Doyle warned automatically.
"It is too public, isn't it? Then I'll wait until we're alone," Bodie promised.
Despite his words, he behaved himself in the small room, not watching as Doyle struggled with the odd plumbing, and using it himself with casual skill. Doyle sourly wondered if there was anything the man couldn't do well. However, he did not feel genuinely threatened or inferior to him, knowing it was a matter of practice in most aspects. Challenged? Was that what it was, how he felt? Lost in thought, he said nothing, and Bodie kept quiet as well.
When they emerged, they discovered the food had been set out, and they joined the line at once. The fruit did not have a particularly authentic look, but the taste was good, and they both went back for seconds when all the others had been through the line once. The crew had scarcely cleared the remains of the food away before the red light started flashing and everyone was asked to take their seats.
Docking was a lengthy process, and so was the transfer to the Geode. The airlock tube was wide enough for only one person to cross at a time. At last, however, they stepped onto the spaceship and were given their room number by a smiling Arra Lee.
The ship was small and cramped by any standards. The gravity strips were primitive, and even Bodie had some difficulty crossing thresholds. It wasn't hard to find their room, however, for it was on the end of the corridor. Their luggage was already there, strapped down in a recess just within the door.
"Love the decor," Doyle commented, for essentially, there was none. All four walls were padded and in pale shades. In space there was no up or down, and so each wall was a different color in order to facilitate references. One wall had a soothing pattern of greens and greys impressed into the padding. Opposite that was a strong cherry color. In turn there was a pale yellow, a pale blue, a delicate peach and a red-brown, upon which they were standing.
"Welcome to your cabin on the Geode," came a warm, female, and pre-recorded voice. "For the first hour, on your blue wall, there will be a travel schedule and the details you will need to know for your comfort and safety about Jump travel. Please become acquainted with them immediately. Voice version available by pushing the gold button at the door. Please push the red button if there is any service you require. Remember, during Jump peak, we will be unable to attend to your needs until the field has relaxed to safe levels. Please enjoy your trip."
Doyle turned to the blue wall and started reading. Ship's schedule...recommended clothing... emergency procedures... food...disposal of containers...entertainment options....
Beside him, Bodie gave a snort of suppressed laughter. Doyle, a moment later, realized what had caused that reaction. There was no relief station. The devices used were much like what babies were wrapped in. Giant nappies!
Doyle bit the underside of his lip and considered. It wasn't the information which gave him pause, but the knowledge that Bodie probably read faster than he did. Unless the stupid sod had just started in the middle? Doyle was a bit proud of his reading. In a society where it was an optional skill--pictures and voice-overs were all that was required in most situations--only the Highers and those who held to old-fashioned ways insisted their children learn it. His reading had been every bit as good as Ann's, and it was one of the things which had impressed her when they had first met.
Bodie's skill didn't impress Doyle as much as annoy him. It had also distracted him, so that he fell even further behind. By the time he finished, Bodie was already following the suggestions for minimal clothing and was slipping off his shoes and stockings and placing them in the pull-out provided.
Doyle did the same, and then stripped off his clothing, leaving on just his underwear. "It does say you'll have to take off all electronic and external devices," he said to Bodie, who was also taking off his outer clothing and putting it away.
"Not until halfway into Jump. Don't be impatient." Bodie was not putting all his effort into his reply, however. He was poking around the storage bins, and then into the food rack. He was frowning, and as the expression deepened, Doyle realized something was wrong.
"What..." he began, just as Bodie spoke.
"These aren't right." Bodie lifted out one of the squeeze bottles from the middle of the rack. He twisted it open and tried it. "Empty."
"All of them?" Doyle asked, coming up beside him and testing one himself. Purple juice bubbled at the tip, but nothing came out.
"Hit the red button, Doyle."
Doyle did, knowing that he would have done it without Bodie's orders, and a little annoyed that it gave the appearance that he was jumping to the other's command.
"Ship central. How may we serve you?" asked a pleasant voice.
"We have a problem with our food supply. Please send someone who can replace all of it." Bodie's voice snapped out, before Doyle could speak.
"Someone will be sent at once!" Click.
"Do you suppose this happens often?" Doyle asked.
"Shouldn't think it could happen at all," Bodie said grimly. "If we'd run out in mid Jump, when no one could bring us more...."
"Dehydration and stress. Not long enough to be fatal," Doyle offered.
"Enough to weaken us. Wonder what else isn't right?" Bodie asked and went back to checking. Everything. Doyle watched him for a moment and then pulled on his trousers again.
"Modest?" Bodie asked.
That was part of it. Doyle just preferred meeting strangers when clothed. But, too, he shared Bodie's sense of unease. Thoughtfully, he checked through his bag, stopping when the buzzer indicated someone wished to enter.
Bodie took over. In tones which would not been out of place from the most arrogant Higher, he pointed out to the man who stepped in what was wrong and demanded it be corrected instantly. The man, Walder Orge, according to the name on his badge, was suitably apologetic. He left at once. Bodie went back to his investigations.
"What an arrogant man you are," Doyle said conversationally when Bodie at last had looked everywhere there was to look, including a check of his own luggage.
"You knew it when you matched with me," Bodie said, but for once, he was not giving much attention to his banter. He looked like he was thinking, hard.
"Oh, yes. But I hope you never make the mistake of talking to me like that," Doyle warned lightly. "I wouldn't like it."
Bodie turned his full attention to Doyle. "I'm sure you wouldn't. Don't worry, sunshine. I know you've a nasty little temper hidden under there somewhere. Knew it the first time I looked into your wicked green eyes. I won't risk the side of your tongue for just anything, I promise you!"
Somewhat taken aback, Doyle just stared at him for a few seconds. Before he could decide just what to say, however, the buzzer sounded again. Walder Orge, along with an unlabeled man in a worker's overall, came in with a box of squeeze bottles. Both Bodie and Doyle watched carefully as the rack was completely refilled with new stock.
"I don't expect to find anything else wrong with the accommodations," Bodie said firmly as the crew members packed up the old items and prepared to leave.
"I assure you, you will not. It was all a careless mistake by some worker, of course," Orge said nervously.
"Perhaps you'd better check everyone's supply," Bodie said, too helpfully. "You'd hate to drive the insurance claims up."
"A good idea. Thank you." The lack of enthusiasm in the voice did not go un-noted by either Bodie or Doyle.
"He doesn't love you," Doyle observed, as the door closed. He grinned. By stating it aloud directly to an employee, Bodie's words had become part of the ship's record, and the insurance people would, of course, expect that the check then be done,
"Can't handle more than you, anyway. I'm trying one of these. If I don't drop down in convulsions, you can have one later." Bodie pulled a bottle randomly from the rack, twisted the tip to open it, and vigorously began to suck it down.
"You seem to have developed a suspicious mind," Doyle said mildly. Slowly, he was taking off his clothing again.
Bodie paused in his drinking "Let's just say I expect this was the only room with that particular problem." He tilted the bottle, squeezing it. Doyle watched Bodie's neck, the part of it not obscured by the privacy collar, and angrily turned his eyes away as he caught himself staring.
"We're underway," Bodie said as he disposed of the container. "Five minutes until the gravity starts to go." He sounded quite pleased. He went to the pull-out and reached in to his bag for his small privacy unit. He flipped it on.
"Why are you...." Doyle wanted to know.
Bodie waved him to silence. When the unit beeped, he nodded. "Just checking to see if there are any other little surprises here. Apparently the room has just normal monitoring, no special listening devices. I'm going to leave this on for awhile, though. It will blink when somebody decides to look or listen in on us."
"Unless someone's tampered with it while it was out of your hands?" Doyle suggested.
"I'd know." Bodie said. Then, he said, "Gravity's starting to go."
Doyle waited with some trepidation. The information on the wall had told him what he needed to know, but he wasn't looking forward to the actual experience. Bodie would know all about it, of course, due to his Army training. Doyle hated the idea of having the other watch his first fumbling efforts.
But it wasn't bad at all. As the gravity bled away, he became gradually lighter and lighter, until his feet left the floor and he was just...there. Tentatively, he reached out and gave himself a push. Odd. He tried it again. Bodie had pulled himself up, out of the way, wordlessly giving Doyle room to learn in. Doyle said thank you with a wave and then laughed as that motion gave him an unexpected spin.
Sometimes bouncing off the padded walls, sometimes catching himself, Doyle lost himself in the experiment, working until he was sure of each action and reaction, until he was panting with exertion and exhilaration. Until he went sailing across the small space, and Bodie did not move out of his way, as he had done before, but caught him in his arms.
Doyle found himself held tight against a broad chest, with arms like steel bands around him, looking up into blue eyes which were not at all laughing. "Trade you a kiss--for showing you how to make that turn," Bodie offered in a low, seductive voice.
Doyle swallowed, hard, not disturbed so much by the offer as by the odd feeling it made in his gut. For just a moment, it sounded like a reasonable trade. He struggled to catch hold of his good sense, and then made a counter offer.
"You can have the kiss--if you take off that privacy collar." He was rather startled when he was abruptly let go, with enough of a push to send him to the opposite wall. Bodie was silent for a full minute, staring at him, with some unfathomable message in his eyes.
Then Bodie said, "Promise?"
Doyle took a deep breath. It wasn't as if he hadn't kissed the man already, at their match ceremony. How bad could it be? He gave into his curiosity. "Yeah. I promise," he said firmly.
Bodie hesitated a moment longer, and then brought his free hand up to his neck. His fingers moved in the pattern there, the slight energy field faded, and for the first time, Doyle looked at Bodie's face.
Doyle was too shocked to speak at first, and although he rapidly regained control of his reactions, there was a small silence before he managed to find his tongue.
"That's your definition of blinding beauty?"
A small lift of a shoulder. "It was blinding beauty a few days ago," Bodie insisted in an almost normal voice.
"I'll take your word for it. What happened?" Doyle wanted to know.
"Coogan has a new weapon." Bodie lifted his hand to run a finger across the ridge of flat raw tissue which went from the bridge of his nose, across his left cheek, and to the base of his ear. "There's only one person it was used against who's lived to tell about it."
"You," Doyle said.
"Me. I know what it looks like, I know who pointed it at me, and I'm needed to testify when Coogan is hauled in."
"And Cowley decided it was best you take a trip?" Doyle wanted to know. "Why not keep you where he can get hold of you easily?"
"Deep game. Coogan will be Declared against, and come in, but the new evidence won't hold up. They won't bring me forward to testify, so he'll decide I don't exist, that they managed to kill me. They think he'll decide it's safe enough to go forward with some of his plans to make more of the weapons." He fingered his scar again. "Then, they'll call him back on a technicality and have me testify. The plan is to get more than just Coogan. Get the source of those damn things."
"How can he have a weapon? They're detectable!" The punishment was severe, too.
"Not these. The damn things are all plastic. They come apart, into innocent looking things, shapes you could find anywhere. Powered by a battery, a standard size. Shoot, dispose of the used battery, and then the thing is disassembled. No sign of a weapon. Disposable down any recycler, we think."
"And it kills?" Doyle said, thickly, thinking of all the hell a thing like that could cause, both for the common man and the Pro who had to keep the peace.
"It can. I think the one that got me was almost drained. They only shoot for about 60 seconds, from what we've been able to discover."
A lot of damage could be done in 60 seconds. "Is it like a burn?" Doyle wanted to know. The edges of it were oddly smooth, but there were ridges in the center, almost as if a claw had been dragged across wet clay.
"It hurt like a burn, at first. Like acid, they told me. I couldn't see. Acted on instinct, rolled and ran."
"Army training," Doyle said.
"Yeah. Army training. Kept me going until I was safe. Couldn't even go to a hospital, had to be treated in the CI5 medical unit."
"Is that why they didn't fix it?" Doyle asked, his eyes on the wound.
"They didn't fix it because they want to introduce me as a witness, scar and all. Cowley thinks the visual impact would be better than vids and doctor's statements. I get it fixed after the trial."
"I can see why it would be effective." The right side of Bodie's face was evidence that he'd been almost as handsome as he had claimed.
Bodie smiled grimly. "So I've been told." His hands went up to reactivate his privacy collar.
Doyle pushed himself off the wall, hard. He came up against Bodie before the other man had reacted. Proud of himself because his reactions had been faster than Bodie's for once, he took hold of Bodie's shoulder to balance himself, and brought his lips down on Bodie's. He'd planned just a quick kiss, a minimum fulfillment of a bargain, but somehow he didn't pull away when he could have, and then Bodie wrapped an arm around him and pressed his mouth forward aggressively. He found himself floating, his entire length against Bodie's, while his mouth was ravished. The thrust of the tongue into his own mouth should have disturbed him much more than it was. He should be pushing away, not meeting it with his own, not opening his mouth wider.
Lack of oxygen might have stopped the kiss eventually, but what did was a bit more abrupt. They ran into the wall. Padded though it was, the effect was to send them spinning away again, and Doyle's lips were on the damaged skin instead, just before they slid away entirely. Bodie pulled away and let go, and Doyle was busy trying to get control of his body, trying to remember what he had learned earlier about actions and reactions.
When he was still again, clinging to a strap on the wall--a wall which had once been the floor, he realized, he looked for Bodie and found him on the opposite wall, privacy collar once again in place.
"So. A man of your word," Bodie said. "Or was that a bit of mercy you offered me? A kindness to make up for...everything."
"I'm a man of my word," Doyle said automatically.
"Ah. Care to make another trade?" Bodie asked, too casually.
"Not," Doyle said, "right now."
"Whatever pleases you."
"You're going to have to take that off when we get closer to the Jump. You know that," Doyle said.
"Not until the last minute."
"It's not that bad," Doyle lied.
"Cowley's orders," Bodie countered.
"And you're going to have to turn off your unit there," Doyle pointed to the black machine. "It's more suspicious to have it on. Nobody checked right away. Maybe the food problem was just an accident."
"And maybe they're on my trail. You know what it means if Coogan has agents on this ship, Doyle?"
"It means that, unless they're crew, they're confined to their quarters the same as we are. I think you're safe until Mars. Lets play dumb a little longer, Bodie."
"Shouldn't be hard in your case." Bodie said, and before Doyle could react to that, he said, "You shouldn't have kissed me like that."
Doyle knew that.
"I want you now. Before, I was just attracted." Bodie smiled. It was not a nice smile. "If we turn the privacy screen off, and if they monitor us, they'll expect to see two recent matches, doing what recent matches do."
"Or maybe they'll just see two people who are asleep, having just done what recent matches do," Doyle countered.
"Even I can't sleep that long, Doyle."
"What's your point?"
"How about giving me...half of what I want."
Doyle swallowed, thinking about what Bodie wanted. "Which half?" he asked.
"You read the instructions about sex. Nothing is supposed to be ejected into the air. Cause no end of trouble if you inhaled little droplets of...anything. Everything is supposed to be deposited...inside something."
"I read that," Doyle agreed.
"How about you put your...offerings inside my mouth. Or my arse, take your pick."
"And what are you going to expect in return?" Doyle swallowed again, hard. It shouldn't have appealed. Not at all.
"I put mine...in a condom. I'll stay out of your body completely. Just...help me along. Let me rub up against you. Maybe a kiss or two. What do you say? Let them see what they expect to see."
"And what do I get out of it?" Doyle asked.
"A little pleasure. Or maybe...a lot."
"You're persuasive." Doyle said. Jump must be affecting his thinking. He'd heard it did.
"And," Bodie lowered his voice, "Any time you say stop, I stop. That goes without saying."
"I'd be a fool to say yes. You'd just want it again," Doyle told him.
"Goes without saying. I wanted that since the first time I saw you. I'd want 'again' even if I never had more than that kiss."
To Doyle, it sounded sincere. But the ability to fake sincerity was probably CI5 stock in trade. On the other hand, at this stage of the game, Bodie still needed Doyle's cooperation. He wouldn't put himself in the position of having Doyle furious at him, would he? The only real question was, could Doyle dally with a man? Could he participate to that extent? Doyle remembered the kiss and knew quite well that he could. Why not do it? He'd experience sex in Jump, know what all the fuss was about. Right?
"Yes." Doyle shocked to hear the word come out of his mouth.
"Yes?" Bodie said, startled into letting go of the strap he held. Doyle could tell from that reaction that Bodie had not been as confident as he had sounded.
"Yes. I'll do it, the way you've lined it out. No..." he hesitated, searching for a polite word.
Bodie had one which wasn't polite. "No fucking. Fine. I'll turn off the shield when it's time. You take off your underwear. Now."
"What?" Doyle asked, confused.
"It's started. Can't you tell?" Bodie pushed off take care of his privacy collar, and Doyle blinked, trying to sense what Bodie seemed to sense. Nothing. Except it did seem a little warmer.
Bodie came back, drifting closer to Doyle but not close enough to touch. "Need some help?" he asked, staring pointedly at Doyle's still covered crotch.
"You're still wearing yours," Doyle pointed out defensively.
"I'm offering to help," Bodie said. "It's not as easy as you think."
Ten minutes later, Bodie was howling with laughter, barely holding on to the strap because he was clutching his stomach at the same time. After contortions which would have found him a place in a circus five centuries earlier, Doyle had managed to wedge himself into a corner and, with the help of a strap to hang on to, he had wiggled out of his underwear, which were now floating majestically between them, still holding enough shape so that it was if they were worn by an invisible, if very thin, third person.
Half irritated, half amused himself, Doyle launched himself across the room. He hit hard enough to break Bodie's grip on the strap, sending the both of them sideways and out into the middle of the room. They wrestled, after an odd fashion, gaining advantage as they hit a wall or changed direction, loosing it as easily. Laughing was almost continual. Bodie had an odd giggle, which started low but could turn into a shriek with the sudden dig of fingers into ribs.
If Doyle had thought it hard to take his own pants off, he discovered it was even more difficult to slide them off a flailing, laughing, tumbling body even bigger than his own. It was only when his own free-floating pants plastered themselves lovingly over Bodie's face that Doyle managed to jerk Bodie's briefs off his hips and down to his knees. Bodie managed to clear his face just as a second effort by Doyle left him nude
And suddenly, it was all different. Bodie snatched at Doyle, catching him by the arm and pulling him closer, and then he wrapped his legs around Doyle's, and his arms around his shoulders, and what had been innocent fun became an abruptly serious kiss.
Too serious. Doyle broke his mouth away, panting from his exertion and something else he didn't want to examine too closely.
Bodie captured his mouth again, but only teased it lightly with his tongue before letting it free. "You've got a mouth like chocolate," Bodie murmured, pressing tiny kisses along Doyle's jaw to his neck. Doyle felt the pressure on his neck; it tickled and he threw back his head a little to avoid it. It caused them to change directions, to follow a lazy spiral. Bodie took it as invitation and paid more attention to Doyle's neck.
"That's like chocolate, too," Bodie told him, moving up to the ear and nibbling there. They bounced gently off the wall and found a new direction.
"Chocolate?" Doyle managed to say in a husky voice.
"It's...my...favorite," Bodie confessed, but as he spoke his hands slid down to clutch Doyle's buttocks and it was not clear if it were only chocolate he deemed his favorite, or if Doyle's clenched arse inspired a share of those feelings as well.
Doyle went rigid and they changed directions again. Doyle didn't notice. He was looking at Bodie's face, what could be seen of it through the shimmer of the field. Bodie's eyes met his. Blue...the most beautiful blue....
They twisted in slow motion, and Bodie found his lips again.
He wasn't thinking clearly, Doyle knew. He should care. Those were a man's lips sucking so gently on his own. In the slow burn of pleasure, it didn't matter, and he wanted more. So he took it, rubbing his hips forward without conscious thought, opening his mouth to meet the big bold tongue which thrust in, graphically mimicking another action which did not seem so impossible now as it once had.
Bodie left his mouth, moving down again to his neck, and when he was finished there, he flowed down a little more, tasting the curve of a shoulder, the line of the clavicle, and then, a little lower, he found the taut and yearning nub of flesh that ached for Bodie's mouth.
Yes! They twisted like a top in slow motion, but Doyle had forgotten completely their circumstances. He had never had enough of this. Ann had never understood that he had loved it as much as she seemed to, even when he had asked her to do it, almost begged for it. Now, as he was generously offered licks and hard sucking and gentle nips in turn, he felt inside a growing sense of joyous rebellion. He let his fingers find Bodie's cap of black hair and he rubbed through it sensuously, finding the rhythm which Bodie's mouth was offering, and when it was almost more than he could stand, he forcibly shifted Bodie's head to his other nipple, gasping aloud at the keen sweetness of having anew.
And then the straining flesh left behind as the mouth left, trailing down the line of hair to his bellybutton, playing there, and it wasn't his chest which was screaming for attention, but his swollen cock. It was bobbing against Bodie's chest, and then his neck, tapping for attention as Doyle's hips became more active.
Asked. Given. Bodie slid further down Doyle's body, arms holding tight to waist and legs, and he sucked in Doyle's pleading cock in one smooth motion.
Doyle cried out. Pleasure, and strange tingles which must have had something to do with jump, and a heat like nothing he had ever felt before in his life, pushed the sound from him. He had taught Ann this method himself, and had thought she had learned it well, but knew now that she had been tentative and grudging in what she had offered, and her mouth had been too small as well. Lost in the cavern of Bodie's mouth, he was given the gift of a knowing tongue, the pressure of a mouth which worked tirelessly in his behalf.
He erupted, feeling it howling from his balls and through tight passages, to spray powerfully into the working throat. It was sucked from him with glorious eagerness, not endured and swallowed from obligation and duty, as he now realized Ann's service had been. He was not released until he was drained dry, until he whimpered from the powerful touch and pushed away.
Then, half stunned, he was let go and he drifted away, to bump against the wall and change direction, like a billiard ball in slow motion, like....
He watched Bodie with languid half-attention, wondering at the energy the other put into a turn. Bodie snatched the underwear out of the air as he passed, tucking it away in his bag as he fumbled there for something. Smooth movements. Like dance. He wedged himself firmly into a corner, one-handedly fumbling at his groin, and that was when Doyle realized that Bodie was aroused past believing, that he was rolling on a condom, that Bodie's hand had closed around himself and he was vigorously, almost desperately, taking his own pleasure, finding his own relief.
And that was wrong.
He'd promised to help. His inner integrity, the quality that made him a good Pro, prodded him to push off from the wall, to float to Bodie, touching him first on the shoulder, then on the torso as he essentially collided with him. Bodie's head came up.
Those blue, blue eyes, asking him, wanting....
He wrapped himself around Bodie, not quite as he intended. His legs held knees, his arms around the wide chest, so that the thick cock in it's thin sheath rubbed up against his belly. Bodie's fingers were there, too, still moving. Doyle's hand came up, shoving the other aside, taking over the pumping, so that Bodie was free to wrap both arms around Doyle to anchor them. Bodie's hips thrust relentlessly.
The cock he held to his own belly was the biggest in the world, or at least it seemed so to Doyle. To work that monster in the cramped confined space between their bodies was difficult, but it was it's own odd pleasure as well. He reached down to the balls, thick and tight in their own right, and touched and squeezed in the way he liked for himself, knowing what was right, feeling the responses in Bodie's body almost as if they were in his own.
The need grew, it was undeniable, and it came quickly. He could feel the heat pooling in the tip of the condom, knew by the jerks against his own belly how many spurts it had taken to fill that space. He massaged Bodie's belly, then, that place just above the pubic hair that ached, rubbed until Bodie pushed away.
It was a careful job, removing that condom so none of the contents escaped. Bodie sealed it in a packet and put away for future disposal, and that didn't seem right to Doyle. He had no chance to think about it, for Bodie pulled a bottle from the rack and tossed it at Doyle, who realized he was ravenous. He watched how Bodie put the tip of his own bottle into his mouth and then twisted the cap. Doyle did the same. It was grape in flavor--more or less--and he finished it in the same amount of time that Bodie finished his. They disposed of the empties, and Bodie yawned.
He was looking for a strap to take hold of when Doyle let go and floated up to him. Bodie looked, at him curiously, but he didn't object when Doyle wrapped his arms around him. He accepted it, looping an arm around Doyle willingly enough, and he fell asleep almost at once.
Doyle did not. He felt the strangeness of a flat chest under his cheek, the powerful arm at his back, and he wondered if he had made a mistake. One slept this way with a lover, and Bodie wasn't exactly a lover.
There was no denying it had been a wonderful experience. But that was the novelty, and maybe the mythical effect of Jump. Maybe sex with anyone would have been as good, under these circumstances. Maybe....
Maybe, he told himself, you just liked it.
Liked it with a man.
Memory supplied him with the feel of that big cock in his hand. Wrapped in plastic, he reminded himself. He wondered what it would feel like without the health barrier. Knew what it would feel like without it. Just like his own.
Try imagining what it would feel like shoved up into you, he told himself. But the idea didn't shock, like it once would have. It just made him wonder what it would be like to do that to a man. He'd never experienced anal sex, never having a relationship which had lasted to the point of such intimacy. Only with Ann had he ever considered a match, and he knew now that Ann would never have permitted anything so out of the ordinary. Ann had not been a risk taker. In the end, she'd not even risked a match with a man she had said she loved. Ann hadn't wanted him.
The idea didn't sting as it should have. Not after loving such has Ann had never given him, from a person who was in so many ways Ann's opposite.
From his match.
It hit Doyle anew that he had actually matched with Bodie, that at this moment, he had every right to be in Bodie's arms, to make love to him as often and as fervently as he liked. Bodie wouldn't mind. Bodie would take everything he was offered, and love it.
Bodie's sleepy voice came to him. "Aren't you the randy surprise?"
That was when Doyle realized that he had been thrusting against Bodie, that his cock had thickened again, and that need was once more singing in his veins.
"I...." Doyle felt his face flush red.
"You can't think that I mind?" Bodie asked, and his warm chuckle came through his very skin to lift Doyle's cheek. "Tell you what. Why don't you slide that thing up my arse and fuck me with it?"
Doyle swallowed, and he should have protested and he should have denied, and what came out of his mouth was, "How?"
Bodie laughed. He loosened his arms, floating down a bit until he could put his mouth onto Doyle's cock once again, and when he had made it wet and hard, Bodie showed him. He found the right place on the wall, tucking his hands and feet into straps, presenting himself with his face to the wall. Waiting.
It wasn't easy. Awkward, for a moment to find the right angle, to find how to hold tight and still thrust forward. His cock sank into resistance at first, but after only a few thrusts it was like he had never known anything else. Under him, Bodie was braced for them both, and he wasn't still, or silent. He opened himself, taking Doyle again and again, and he moaned and cursed and told the universe how wonderful it was to be fucked hard by Ray Doyle.
It was not a quick loving, for Doyle had reserves which many men did not and he was an excellent lover. It was not so hard to adapt the techniques he had developed over the years. He kissed at the nape of the neck, his hands roved as best they could when so much attention was needed to keep them together.
"Touch me!" Bodie gasped eventually. His cock was before him, a thick rod of need, which was only being stimulated by an occasional bump against the wall.
"No," said Doyle, who remembered that Bodie was not wearing a condom and that they must not allow his seed into the air.
"Doyle! Damn you! Doyle!" Bodie practically screamed, because Doyle had pulled out of Bodie's body and left him with nothing.
Doyle was holding to a sudden resolution, holding fast to his courage. He twisted, clutching Bodie, getting his head between Bodie and the wall. He spared one glance for Bodie's cock, which looked as big as a tree at this close distance, and then he steeled himself and put his mouth around the end of that huge....
It was just as big in his mouth, and Bodie was thrusting, so that in order to keep from being choked, Doyle had to put up an arm, hold him back. So damn big, and the taste, and the power of it seemed too much, but the knowledge that once he began, he was committed to see it though to the end pounded in his brain and so he concentrated on bringing the peak as soon as possible. It was difficult, but he managed to bring his hand to aid his mouth, stroking hard on the underside of the cock as he sucked and tongued the end of it. Half the time it was as if he could not breath, half the time he was afraid that Bodie's control would snap and he would ram that giant thing so far down Doyle's throat that it would kill him. His mouth hurt, his lungs hurt, his head hurt...and then it came, a shudder and a cry, and Bodie did shove forward, hard, but he stopped just on this side of impossible and Doyle took into himself the salty heat which seemed to spurt endlessly into his gullet.
And when he was quite sure there was no more to come he let go, scrabbled around to the other side of Bodie, and thrust himself home again. He fucked the now passive body, slow and deep, making it last, making it a triumph to dominate it for such a long time, and when he did at last let go, he ground them together, hard, getting as far as he could into the channel, and then he poured deep into him, clutching him tight.
And then he passed out.
He came to himself much later, aroused by a gentle hand cleaning his genitals. He groaned.
"That's what I said," Bodie's voice said. There was awe in his voice, as well as humor as he added, "I have never been fucked like that in my life."
"Hurt...you?" Doyle managed to ask, his hand going to his head. He felt distinctly funny.
"I suspect not. But I'll be remembering you, Sunshine. Here, drink this." A squeeze bulb was put into his hands. Fumbling, he got it up to his mouth. The tart flavor was wonderful. He drained it dry. "What's wrong with the lights?" he asked.
"Nothing. It's the Jump. It feels different, too. Did you notice?" Bodie took the empty from Doyle.
It did. Like floating in syrup. He blinked, his eyes adjusting. Bodie was now disposing of the cleaning cloth and the empty bottle, and he grabbed two more drinks before drifting back to Doyle's side. Doyle took the offered bottle, watching as Bodie drank his. Watching the steady movements in Bodie's neck.
"You okay, Sunshine?"
Doyle blinked and tried to decide what to answer. "Yes," he said at last.
"Me, too." There was remembrance in his tone as well, and pure satiation.
Doyle turned to look at him; Bodie didn't have on his privacy collar. His face looked...vulnerable. Doyle's hand came up, but Bodie was too far away to touch. But then he was nearer. Doyle smiled.
"You look like you want kissing," Bodie said, and took him in his arms and kissed him. Then he let go, directed the bottle Doyle held towards his mouth, and watched while he drank. "You're beautiful," he said. Doyle sucked deeply, finishing the bottle. Was the air actually red? or orange? He blinked and tried to decide. Yellow? No.
Bodie was doing something to him. It didn't seem worth the energy to worry about it. When the device was wrapped around his loins, Doyle remembered what it was, thought about it, and decided he did have to go. It felt good, but odd, as well. Bodie was still watching him...but that was fine. Yes. When he was done, he managed to get out of the thing himself, and put it away.
"Come sleep with me," Bodie said, pulling him close. Good idea. Tired. Still. Dreams?
He woke once to find them anchored to the wall, and he and Bodie were entwined. Bodie was asleep, his head resting on Doyle's arm. For the longest time, Doyle stared at him, looking at the nose, slightly marred at the bridge, at the wound which was not quite yet a scar which trailed down the side of his face.
Ugly. Lovely. Bodie. Lips like red...ears...hair, as slick as...all...Bodie. He must have slept again. More dreams. Falling. Bits of his childhood, long forgotten, drifted in his mind and danced there.
He woke once, thirsty, and drank, and drifted again. He remembered thinking that Jump was so very, very odd...
Someone was kissing him.
He was awake.
Awake and aware, in a way he had not been for what seemed to be a very long time.
Awake. He opened his eyes as the person who was kissing him stopped.
Bodie. Who was wearing his privacy collar again.
"The other side of Jump," Doyle said, to himself.
"Yes." Bodie answered him, and he grinned. "Hell of a ride, Sunshine."
"And there's time enough to make love again, too," Bodie said with satisfaction.
Doyle didn't answer.
Bodie stared at him. "Once was enough, was it?" Bodie asked, too lightly.
Doyle remembered all too clearly how it was to make love to Bodie. It was cruel, he thought, to have this and then not have it. He should stop it. But....Never again?
Maybe it would be never again someday. But not now. He held out his arms, saying nothing, and Bodie came to him. They kissed. Deeply. Moved. When he found himself with his mouth on Bodie's cock, and his own inside Bodie's hollowing cheeks, he forgot himself, learning how to take more and more of it in, how to tease it with his tongue and lips, how to touch it with his hands.
How to swallow the gift when it welled to the surface, and lick clean the tip when there was nothing more.
Such a big part of a big man. He could not help but think of it, of how Bodie must think of putting it...but Bodie had said no, Bodie had promised.
"What a fool your Ann was," Bodie said, kissing the nearest part of Doyle's shoulder as it floated past him.
"A match isn't just sex," Doyle said, irritated into saying more than he should.
"Oh?" Bodie stretched, looking like a giant floating X for a moment, causing Doyle's lips to turn up involuntarily. "What else is there?"
"Mutual interests, mutual goals. Children."
"Children I'm not interested in. But I've got a half sister who is a donation mother. Loves kids. Has three so far."
Men who had a child with a donation mother, just to continue their genes, and who had no contributions after that except monetary, were not the sort Doyle admired.
"You and I have mutual interests," Bodie said. He might have said more but a chime sounded. "Already? Twelve hours until we dock at the station?" He went to check for himself.
Jump time. Three weeks in real time. He felt curiously robbed, for a moment. By the time they got home, almost two months would have passed, but he would have memories of only ten days. He already knew he'd never forget these ten days. His eyes were on Bodie, watching the graceful way he moved.
"Mars. Named for the god of war. Red like blood," Bodie said.
"Yes, I know. We don't go directly down, you know. We have to spend 12 hours at normal gravity, and get a medical check before we go on," Doyle explained.
"I hope they give us real food. Three days on juice is all my stomach cares for."
"They'll feed us right away, I understand." Doyle moved restlessly. It wasn't what he wanted to say. But what did he want to say? Between worry at being monitored, and his own doubts, the best course was to keep silent. Pretend to be what you are, he told himself. A tourist.
A tourist on his match trip.
He moved restlessly. It wasn't a good idea in free fall. He changed his grip, then let go of the strap. He practiced what he had learned earlier, knowing that after he returned home he'd never have need of the skills, but thinking, too, that this would be his only trip between planets. While he was here, he'd enjoy it. Just like he'd enjoy Bodie while he was here. When he was home....
He became aware of Bodie, joining him. Before long, they were in mock combat, trying to tumble each other end over end, learning to duck and roll, to push off wall or body so that not only did one go the direction desired, but the other did not. They ended up hot and sweaty and laughing, sharing a bottle of fruit juice side by side. They even napped for awhile.
The warning sounded, but it took a long time for the artificial gravity to be noticeable. Up became up, down became down, and they found 'normal' difficult to adjust to at first.
"I can see why they prefer you to be in shape," Doyle said, finding that he actually had to practice walking for a few minutes to do it naturally. His legs felt as if they were made of plastic, and not hard plastic, either.
Bodie was going through a series of exercises, and Doyle followed along for a few minutes before going and pulling open a packet of cleansing pads marked 'gravity use only.' He was in need of a long hot shower, which he realized he was not going to get until he was on his home planet. It felt good to wipe down, to brush his hair, to rub cleaner over his teeth. Bodie did the same when he was finished with his exercise, and then they dressed in fresh clothing.
It seemed odd to wear clothing. It made Bodie seem more of a stranger. And he decided he didn't like the privacy collar. He wanted to see every nuance of Bodie's face. He clutched his bag in one hand and clenched the other to keep himself from reaching out and touching Bodie. He wanted to turn back the clock.
What he got was a dose of boring reality. Announcements and instructions came over the ship's intercom. The door opened and they joined the queue. How strange to be with other people, to listen to voices speaking about matters in which he had no interest. He wanted to speak to Bodie, but he had nothing to say because of the possibility that it could be overheard. Used against them.
The airlock process seemed to take forever. They exited into a narrow corridor and then into a room much like the room they had all been in on the shuttle. Arra Lee was greeting them all as they entered, directing them to small tables where prepackaged meals were laid out, ready to eat. Bodie began eating with enthusiasm. Doyle was hungry, but he didn't find the meal exciting; he ate slowly until he realized that Bodie was finished and eyeing his plate with poorly concealed interest. Doyle laughed and passed what was left over to him.
"You're a gem," Bodie told him between bites. Doyle smiled, wanting to say things he couldn't say. Fortunately, Arra Lee came to the front of the room, asked for everyone's attention, and began to speak.
"Welcome to Golden Age station. We are now in orbit around Mars. As you probably know, Golden Age station is a cooperative effort maintained by all corporations and scientific organizations doing business on Mars. Incorporated into it are the original orbiting stations from the earliest days of interplanetary exploration.
We will give you time to go see these areas and a display of antiques. We also urge everyone to see the wall of honor, on which are inscribed the names of all the authors who wrote about Mars in fiction stories, before humanity first stepped out upon the red planet. Without their vision, we would not be here today."
Bodie moved restlessly beside him. Doyle elbowed him impatiently. He wanted to listen.
"We will be here for another eleven hours, ten minutes. At that point, we board a shuttle to take us down to the surface of Mars." She paused for dramatic effect, then went on. "During the time we wait for the shuttle, we ask that you each have another physical. We require that you spend time in the exercise units or do several short workouts in the full gravity area--we are currently here at 78%--and report any difficulties in breathing or performance to the doctors."
Beside him, Bodie let out a muffled snort. "Have any difficulties with my performance?" he whispered lewdly to Doyle, who gave him the elbow again.
Arra Lee threw them a glance. Doyle felt his face go slightly red. She went on, "You might wish to also take advantage of the special rooms where the gravity is Mars normal, where you would have the opportunity to practice walking under those conditions.
"Meals will be provided every four hours. Please report any difficulties with digestion to the physicians. We do not provide sleep rooms here. We find that if you go to sleep the moment you land on Mars, your body adapts while you are asleep and your general fatigue is less later on." She gave an exaggerated wink, and said, "I know that wait might be difficult for some of the new matches!"
Beside him, Bodie grinned widely. Doyle wondered if he were blushing. His face felt red, and it was not just because he was a new match, being teased. It was because he had been thinking that it was a long time until he could be in bed again with Bodie. Bodie was no doubt thinking the same. Bodie was probably thinking about....
"There are areas of the station restricted to you. Those areas are marked by blue doors with this double X symbol," it appeared on the wall behind her, "and we appreciate your cooperation in this matter."
Bodie leaned forward. "I know all about restricted areas!" Bodie whispered. Doyle thought about hitting him, and that shocked him. He had never been inclined to solve problems with violence. The idea that Bodie was changing the way he thought was disturbing.
Arra Lee talked on. She always managed to repeat herself, to say information in two ways so that there would be no doubt of her meaning. She did it smoothly, professionally, and he found it easy to tune her out during the repetitive parts. He let his eyes travel over the group. Kurt...what was his name...Donely. He was not paying attention to her either. He seemed to be tapping something into a handheld. Diary? Doyle grinned at the thought.
Bodie leaned forward until his mouth was right next to Doyle's ear. "'ere now!" he whispered, "what are you doing, staring at other men?"
Doyle pulled away to look directly at Bodie, whose lips were turned up, but whose eyes held no amusement. He couldn't possibly be really jealous! Doyle wondered then at himself, at the mixture of feelings which bubbled up at the thought. He wanted Bodie jealous? Surely not. It's the sex talking, he told himself. Sex, and psychology. He's your match legally, so you're thinking liked a new match, he told himself. Remember, it's not real. It's all a game.
He went back to looking around the room, after pulling a bit away from Bodie to discourage any other impromptu opinions. Talla Dru was a little in front of them, staring with overly rapt attention at Arra Lee. Beside her, her match, Terry Arello, was fingering his Gameboard. He gave the appearance of paying attention to the speaker, but Doyle knew the man only wanted to go back to his game. He wondered if the man had played during Jump, despite the regulations which said that everything was to be locked up during jump to prevent accidental injury.
Three young women near the door, heads together, were trading whispers, but stopped. Arra Lee had introduced a new topic.
"Much of the Mars we will visit isn't designed for tourists. Most of the places we will visit will be working stations. We will be required to stay in groups. You must not wander away on your own. Any of the workers, techs, scientists or admin personnel, has the right to deny you access to an area or to instruct you to take a different way. Mars personnel still number under two thousand. They do not have Pros, or security people, and so everyone at times might take on those duties. If you have a difference of opinion with one of the Mars inhabitants, please call one of the Geode staff to mediate.
"The reason for this is there are many restricted areas. Everywhere you go on Mars, you will be in a pressurized area. Even if you could breathe, you couldn't stand out on Mars unprotected. It is very important to them to keep the mechanisms operating correctly, and of course, there are unpressurized areas you must not go into. Are there any questions?"
There were many, most of them asking for data already given. Doyle was irked to have to sit through it and moved restlessly in his seat. Bodie gave him a mock-stern look which didn't help at all. Before long, however, they were standing in line waiting for their physicals. The doctor was as bored as the one they had seen on the moon.
"Drink more liquids," he said to Doyle as he stepped out of the unit. "91.2. Next," Next was Bodie. "93. Next."
As they moved away, Bodie frowned. "93! Bloody fool. I've not been 93 in twenty years!"
"It's Jump," Doyle said. "Come work out. You'll soon be up again." He knew Bodie was genuinely upset when he didn't leap on the possible double meaning. They went at once to the exerciser. It was designed to move the body in such a way that every muscle group was used, while monitoring heart beat and respiration. Doyle knew that Bodie considered it an unchallenging experience at best. His own attitude was similar. It could function as an adequate warm-up, however, and they needed the work. Doyle grinned as he remembered Bodie's face when he heard his rating.
Bodie went first. When Doyle joined him later, Bodie was once again doing the odd exercises he had learned in the Army. Doyle wordlessly began his own Pro series.
They were both sweaty and warm when they finished. Washing was the usual chemically treated cloths. There was a special cloth for the hair and lotion for afterwards. Doyle longed for a real shower. Rather to his surprise, Bodie made no comments as they cleaned, and did not attempt to touch. It was almost as if he didn't really see Doyle's nakedness. It might have been because privacy was at a minimum. It was disconcerting to Doyle, who at first wondered if it had been something he said. Gradually, he decided it was only that Bodie was focused on what he was doing.
They walked in the .38 gravity chamber. It was harder than it looked. Control was very important, and there was a trick to putting each foot down just right. Until a person got the hang of it, they inflicted a number of twisted ankles on themselves.
They stopped to eat, they walked, they had their clothing cleaned, they walked again. Several times, they became involved in conversations with other couples. Doyle decided Bodie didn't wait exceptionally well. He was actually good at small talk, however. He used the time honored technique of asking the other person about themselves while looking interested. Maybe those he spoke to never realized that he gave no information about himself in exchange.
They attended a pre-recorded vid lecture of the history of Mars exploration and settlement, from the first landing of a probe from the Soviet Mars 3, which provided twenty seconds of data before failing, to the current state of affairs. Thirty two research stations or labs were maintained, with representation from a hundred different foundations and universities. There was even a mining operation and a small recycling center.
Exploring the station didn't take much time. A pretty woman in the blue and white uniform of station personnel once warned them out of a restricted area, but she did it with a smile, and stayed to talk with them in the corridor. Her lovely blue eyes stayed fastened on him as she talked. Peterson, her badge said.
Doyle didn't like it at all.
"Why did they build a station? Why not use one of the moons, at least as a starting point?" Doyle asked.
She turned her attention to him, smiling equally as warmly at him. "Oh, that was completely forbidden by the foundation survey which set up the charter. It was thought that to deface the moons would destroy the historical purity of their existence. They must be there for all to see, to share. Just as no one political group or business is allowed to have control of the overall operation of the colony. You'll find them very careful about balancing the jobs and the benefits. If...."
She was interrupted by a chime. Doyle took advantage of it. "We have to get back. Thank you for speaking with us," Doyle said politely, and he led Bodie back towards the lounge.
"You're jealous!" Bodie declared as they rounded the corner. He stopped, backed Doyle up against the wall and grinned at him. It was hard to think with Bodie's groin pressed up against his hip, but Doyle's flaring anger helped clear his head.
"You fool. This is in public!" Doyle pushed away and strode off down the corridor with as much force as the artificial gravity allowed him. He didn't look behind, but he knew Bodie was following him.
"It's because you're a Pro, you know," Bodie said as he caught up with him. "Keep the traffic moving, keep the slipwalks sanitary. You're not on duty now."
"That's not the point! In public, you keep...."
"Your voice down, your eyes to yourself. Yes, I know. But nobody else was even around!" Bodie stopped him again, this time with a hand on his elbow. "You were jealous," Bodie said. "That's what this is about, isn't it?"
"You're daft. Let go." Doyle pulled free again.
"We should tie on the ribbons again," Bodie said. They'd taken them off to exercise. He stopped, pulled his from his pocket and held it out. "Tie it on for me, love."
Doyle stopped, turning, but he made no move to take the ribbon.
"Go on. I don't mind you being jealous, you know. In fact," Bodie announced, "I like it. I'd be jealous if someone were taking your attention." His voice had gradually gotten lower, and he moved forward. "I take this match seriously, Sunshine. I'm going to be completely true to you as long as this lasts. Look, I'll try to behave myself in the corridor, but you make it damn hard, looking the way you do. You can't blame me for wanting to kiss you," he leaned very close and whispered, "you do it so very well."
Doyle struggled, found his breath and pushed away from the wall, his heart pounding. Bodie actually sounded as if he meant all that, and Doyle knew he didn't, couldn't. Being matched was just a game they were playing, he reminded himself again. Fine. He'd play it, but he wouldn't forget it was just a game. He would.... His body wasn't listening. The impulse to kiss Bodie had roared through him, but damned if he was going to do it here, after just giving Bodie a hard time about such things. He turned the corner, spied a relief station and headed for it. Empty!
The second the door closed behind them he had Bodie up against the wall and was kissing him, hard. Bodie kissed back with equal fervor, until they were holding each other up, panting for breath. Bodie's hand went to Doyle's waist.
"Here?" Doyle could hear that his voice didn't sound scandalized. It sounded hopeful.
"Get 'em down, Sunshine." Bodie said, helping. When Doyle's pants were around his ankles, Bodie knelt, kissed Doyle's belly and then applied his mouth to Doyle's already thickening and lifting flesh.
Doyle gasped, squirmed, took hold of Bodie's shoulders and gave himself over to the pleasure. Odd pleasure. They were held by gravity, confined to a small space, and Doyle was clutched by the teasing fear that a line was forming outside the door and any moment they would be asked to hurry it up. What they were doing was different from making love during Jump. It felt different. More real. Starkly real. The wet warm cavern of Bodie's mouth, the buzzing feel of the privacy collar as the field brushed against his skin, the hard and practiced touch of Bodie's big hands on his balls, all were intensely real. He moaned, the sexual heat flooding though him, chasing away every thought except a desire to push into Bodie. He wished he were pushing into Bodie's arse. He remembered the feel of that with total clarity.
The finger rubbing down behind his balls brought his head, which had been bent over to watch Bodie's bobbing dark hair, straight up. A finger rubbing across the back entrance to his body, a finger teasing, reminding...a finger pushing, just a tiny bit, in. He shuddered. The impulse to lift up, to beg Bodie to come into him, to do that thing which he had done to Bodie, flooded into him, but he kept his mouth firmly shut, afraid of the feeling, afraid because he even felt it at all. The finger stroked back and forth, in time to the sucking mouth, and in fear and joy he tumbled over the edge of pleasure, feeling Bodie's throat swallowing, swallowing, swallowing....
Doyle slid to the floor, his legs refusing to hold him up, and from this position he watched Bodie unfastening his pants, taking them off. From this angle, Bodie looked huge, like some giant statue of a nude god. His cock had risen and was like a club, thick and heavy. With smooth economy of motion, Bodie straddled Doyle's body. There was not enough room to lie down and Doyle's legs were, drawn up, his feet against the wall. Bodie, kneeling, looked down at Doyle. His face seemed to shimmer--that was the privacy collar--but his eyes were intense, and blue, and hot with unsatisfied desire. He reached down with both hands and pulled Doyle's head up, bracing the back of his head and neck. Slowly, he brought Doyle's face up, and he placed his rosy-headed cock against Doyle's lips--and waited.
Doyle looked up into those blue, blue eyes, and, very slowly, opened his mouth just enough to take the weeping tip inside. Just as slowly, Bodie leaned forward, pressing his cock into the mouth which was clearly too small to take even a fraction of it. Just before Doyle reached the point of choking, he pulled back, then he pushed himself in again. Then, holding his body still, he began to move Doyle's head and shoulders, pulling him forward, easing him back, controlling it all--until Doyle began hollowing his, cheeks, holding fast to Bodie's flesh not with his hands, which were braced against the floor and one of Bodie's legs, but with his lips and his tongue and even, just a tiny bit, with his teeth.
He knew when it started for Bodie, knew when the head was thrown back and the hands thrust him away to keep him from shoving hard into Doyle's mouth. The spurts of white seed fell on Doyle's face and neck, and on his hand as he brought it up. When the last little droplets trailed from the big cock, Bodie braced himself on the wall, looming over Doyle, panting as if he had run for miles. When his breath was back, he reached forward again, took hold of Doyle's head with both hands and, very slowly and methodically, he licked his own seed from Doyle's face, meticulously working until every trace was gone.
Doyle lay back, letting the big hands and his own braced elbows take the weight, and he closed his eyes and tried not to think as the smooth tongue caressed his cheeks, his eyes and brows, his chin And neck.
Somebody knocked on the door.
Doyle's eyes flashed open and he struggled to stand up, his frantic hands pulling up his pants, straightening his shirt. Beside him, Bodie was doing the same. Bodie, however, did not at all look panicked. He looked satisfied. He was done first, and blocked the way, holding out his blue ribbon and his arm when Doyle would have pushed past and opened the door. Doyle stared at him, shrugged and tied on the ribbon. Bodie held out his hand, and waited. With another shrug, Doyle pulled his own ribbon out of his pocket and let Bodie tie it on his arm.
They stepped out, neither of them looking at the young man who waited outside. Doyle wondered, as they walked back to the lounge, if the man could smell the sex in the small room. Of course he could. He knew what they had been doing in there. Red embarrassment flooded his face. He might have said something, but they reached the room.
"Oh, good, here's our last two. Take a seat, gentlemen," Arra Lee said. Doyle wondered if he were paranoid, or if she did have a bit of a knowing smile on her face. Fortunately, she turned to introduce a short young woman who stood beside her at the front of the room. "This is Mars Shuttle pilot Dianne Littlepony, who will speak to you about your trip down." She stepped back with a gracious gesture.
Littlepony gave her a look which said she didn't have much use for the gesture, and turned to face her audience. "She makes it sound like I'm the only one," she said without any introductory remarks. "I'm not. You'll be divided into three groups. Your other two pilots are Lance Li and DeLawna Cook. This is different from your basic earth-moon shuttle or moon to Jump ship run. We take a straight drop. You need to know to strap in, stay put and keep your opinions to yourself. It's rather like being in a lift and having the mechanism fail. We issue containment bags if you feel sick and we expect you to use them. Any questions?"
There were none at all. "It's first come, first served. Line up and let's go." She turned away and strode off.
"Put your tongue back in your head," Doyle said unkindly.
"She reminds me of you," Bodie said, and then laughed at the look on Doyle's face. "I hope we get her shuttle."
Doyle didn't reply. They joined the line, and were the last to be admitted into the first shuttle. It was small, cramped, and smelled of old socks. They strapped down.
"Everybody ready?" came Littlepony's voice from up front, and Doyle realized that there was no dividing wall between the pilot and the passengers. He craned his head, but could only see her bright blonde head and her hands, the rest of her hidden by the curving wings of her seat. "Hold on!" she said, and the shuttle started to move.
All too soon it became quite clear why some might become ill-- there were gravity shifts as they left the station, as they changed directions, and as they began to fall towards the planet. Doyle found it didn't make him feel sick, and Bodie wasn't affected either. In fact, from the grin on his face, Doyle rather suspected Bodie was enjoying the sensation. If he was enjoying it, he was the only one on board who was. Or was it just the sense of danger he liked? Every time a thruster kicked in, the small ship shook, and Bodie's eye glittered. Bloody fool.
Landing was bumpy. "Wind's up," is all the pilot said as the gale caused the ship to jolt and bounce with unusual force. In the seat ahead of-him, Doyle heard someone taking advantage of the bag provided.
"Whoops. Good one," she added as they jerked again. "Almost down," she encouraged, and a few minutes later they nosed into the hanger.
They had to wait until the tube lock was fastened to the door, and then they were urged to move quickly. It was freezing cold; frost was forming on the inside of the tube as they were hurried along the crude gravity strip. Once in the building things warmed up.
It was an ugly building inside. The walls were not colored, and in some places it was quite clear where one building material ended and another type began. There were no windows, and no screens.
"How much did you pay for this trip?" Bodie whispered into Doyle's ear as they stepped over an odd sort of sill which crossed the room for no particular reason they could see. Doyle ignored him. Fortunately, he was distracted as they were settled at tables and several young men and women began to bring around food and drink. Gravity was less than earth normal, but more than Mars. He wondered exactly what it was.
For that-matter, he wondered exactly what it was on his plate. Bodie was eating his way through it heartily enough, but Bodie, he decided, would and could eat almost anything. Doyle finished his salad and his vegiforms, and after several bites of his main course, offered it to Bodie.
"You do love me," Bodie said warmly, and ate it with his usual enthusiasm.
Doyle sat and thought about what it meant to love.
A few minutes after they began eating, the people from the second shuttle came in and were served. The third group did not arrive for over an hour, and when they did come in, they were loud with accounts of how their shuttle had developed engine trouble, forcing them to return to the station and board another. Arra Lee came with this group, looking decidedly harried.
The passengers of the first shuttles had been drinking tea and talking among themselves while they waited. Under the noise made up of dozens of expressions of interest and concern, Doyle found Bodie leaning forward and whispering in his ear.
"I don't like it."
Doyle drew back to look Bodie in the face, and then he nodded to show he agreed. Bodie said nothing else, and Doyle also kept silent because he was aware that Bodie was listening intently to a conversation behind them between a pilot and Arra Lee. Unfortunately, the two moved away before they finished speaking.
While the newcomers ate, Arra Lee spoke to them about room assignments. She apologized because each set of four rooms shared a relief room, implying that such sacrifices were common here on the frontier. Doyle yawned and wished she would hurry. All he wanted was a bed.
The bed would have Bodie in it.
Everyone else seemed to be as tired as he was, for almost everyone got up as soon as she was finished speaking. Even some of those eating abandoned their half-full plates for the promise of a bed.
Their room was tiny. It had a bed, a set of drawers, and nothing else. They looked in on it before finding the relief room assigned to them; they hurried through, aware of others waiting to use it.
"It seems cold in here," Doyle said as he took off his clothing and slid in between oddly slick sheets.
"It is. And these are the tourist accommodations. The warmer ones." Bodie, too, was stripping. "They encourage energy conservation here, remember?"
"I suppose that explains the low lighting, too?" Doyle asked, as Bodie passed his hand over the sensor and plunged them into darkness.
"Probably. It has its advantages," Bodie said, joining him in the bed and pulling Doyle close.
"Ummm?" Bodie asked, burrowing his nose In Doyle's curls.
Doyle squirmed. "Good night?"
"Is this your way of saying you're tired? As in, too tired?" Bodie asked.
"Since you asked--yes."
"Good. We'll see what tomorrow brings us," Bodie laughed, planting a kiss on what he supposed was Doyle's mouth. He missed.
Bodie fell asleep almost at once. Doyle, equally tired, was rather annoyed when he realized that sleep was eluding him. He was comfortable, and Bodie was exuding a wonderful heat. He hadn't eaten enough to cause him any discomfort. Not like Bodie, who....
Restlessly, he turned onto his side. Bodie. That was the key to it. Bodie, with his quick grin and his easy manner. He was getting fond Of Bodie. Or was it just the sex? The sex was good. Was that what was bothering him? If he liked Bodie, and enjoyed doing things with him, and liked the sex, then when it came time to break it up, he'd be hurt. He'd already been hurt by Ann. He instinctively withdrew from the idea of being hurt like that again.
Maybe he wasn't interested in Bodie. Maybe he just wanted a relationship. Any port in a storm? But Bodie was temporary....
Perhaps, Bodie was necessary. It was certainly true that it was becoming harder to look back to Ann, now. The reality of Bodie loomed between them. Ten years from now, he'd look back on this period of his life and see...what? Ann and Bodie. Two very different people, binary stars in the universe of his mind, doomed to rotate together forever with the memory of one automatically bringing up the memory of the other. Ann, and Bodie. His lips turned up at the thought, for he knew instinctively that they would hate each other on sight, should they ever meet.
Ann, and Bodie. Each liked the sex with him. Ann had always held something back, though. It was a subtle thing, not noticed until after they had parted and he had Bodie to compare her with. Ann, Doyle realized, had held the reins of their sexual relationship. He had made a suggestion, she had accepted it or rejected it, and they went on from there. She had seldom made any suggestions herself.
Doyle had an uneasy thought that perhaps he was playing a similar role with Bodie. Doyle was the one making rules about what could be done and not done together.
He turned, his back to Bodie's warmth, uncomfortable in the partial gravity. Once he was home, he'd never take gravity for granted again. The thought did not distract him from returning to his contemplation of Bodie. He decided that he couldn't compare what he had with Bodie to what he had with Ann. Bodie wasn't expecting an equal relationship, a real match. This was just a game.
He didn't remember falling asleep, but when he opened his eyes, he knew he had not been asleep for long. He woke up chilled, reached for the cover, and realized he was alone in his bed. Drifting back to sleep with the thought that Bodie must have gotten up to use the relief station, his internal clock woke him up later as his instincts told him Bodie had been gone too long. Unless he was sick?
Doyle got up slowly, stretching to work the pain out of his muscles, and he looked around the room. Bodie's clothing was gone, but that was to be expected. His bag was still there. Doyle decided to make the trip to the relief station himself and pulled on his clothing. The temperature was on the edge of discomfort and he wondered if wearing two tunics would help. He carefully locked the door behind him and walked down to the relief station. He had it all to himself. Where was Bodie?
The hallways were deserted, with almost everyone in this part of the colony asleep. Doyle lingered in the relief room until he started to feel the chill, and then made his way back to the room slowly. Bodie was not there when he walked in.
Doyle decided not to go looking for him. Not right away. Bodie was not the sort to appreciate being checked up on. But what if he was in some sort of trouble? Doyle went back to the room, undressed and climbed into the bed. He couldn't sleep, despite the grainy feeling in his eyes and the yawns which ambushed him every few minutes.
Eventually, he got up again, went to the relief room, washed thoroughly, dressed warmly and decided on a plan. He would look around himself, not bothering to ask for help from the Geode personnel or the local scientists. He had mixed feelings when he returned to the room and found Bodie there. He was glad not to have to go looking, but less than pleased to be wide awake.
"You look all fresh and nice to know," Bodie said by way of greeting. He grinned when Doyle scowled at him. "Up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, are we?" He was moving towards Doyle as he spoke.
"Where..." Doyle began hotly, and then he sputtered at his mouth was covered by Bodie's abruptly. Bodie's arms went around him and he was treated to complete demonstration of Bodie's osculation skills.
Doyle wasn't unmoved, but his anger helped buffer his reactions. "Where..." he began again as soon as his mouth was free.
"Bugs," Bodie breathed lovingly in his ear. Doyle was suspicious of it, but on the chance that Bodie was in the right, he said nothing more. His attention was distracted by Bodie's busy fingers, which were trying to ease his tunic off.
"I just put that on," Doyle said.
It didn't deter Bodie, who unfastened it and pursed his lips at what he found under it. "Two?"
"I was cold," Doyle explained.
"Should have stayed under the covers," Bodie told him.
"It was cold there, too."
"Soon warm you up," Bodie promised.
Part of Doyle wanted to argue, to question, but as it was clear there would be no answers forthcoming, there was the other impulse to consider.
What would it be like in bed with Bodie under normal conditions? Gravity, for example, and without the effect of Jump? Half afraid he would like it, half afraid he would not, he let Bodie remove their clothing and pull him back to the bed.
Cold on one side, hot on the other. Bodie's skin felt wonderfully warm against him, and Doyle pressed himself closer. Bodie seemed more solid than Doyle remembered, and when Doyle twisted over to lay on top of him, Bodie made no objections.
"What are you going to do now?" Bodie asked, suggestively lifting his hips.
"Not sure yet." Doyle was touching, stroking Bodie's shoulders, his flanks, his hips, staying away from the erotic areas, but exciting Bodie none the less. The hips lifted again, and his hands pressed, warm and hard, on Doyle's thighs,
"Are you open to suggestions?" Bodie asked.
"Always. Doesn't mean I'll take them, mind."
"No surprise there. But can you reach the tube of lubricant in my bag?" Bodie wanted to know.
Doyle leaned forward, which stretched him low over Bodie, who licked and teased Doyle's nipples as Doyle reached to pull the bag close. "You've locked it."
"Hand it over, then," Bodie demanded, and once it was near he punched in his code, placed his thumb print on the small panel and opened the bag. He found the tube at once, handing it to Doyle as he dropped the bag to the floor. "Bet you can think of something to do with this."
"Is that what you want?"
Bodie grinned, hesitating just a second too long before saying, "Yeah. That's what I want." Doyle knew Bodie wanted most of all his arse--lure of the forbidden--and failing that, he wasn't opposed to taking the other role. "Use your fingers to put that where it will do some good. And Doyle?" he waited until their eyes met, "I won't mind if you hurry."
"Turn over," Doyle said, his voice a bit rough, and when Bodie did so, pulling up a leg to give Doyle the best access to his body, Doyle went right to work smoothing the thick gel around the entrance. He poked a finger in, over and over, taking a bit more, inside each time, feeling the clench of the muscle sometimes.
"I'm ready any...time you...are," Bodie said eventually, in a voice thickened with desire.
"On your knees," Doyle whispered, while taking his slick fingers to his own cock, pumping it up with sure fast strokes. He crawled into place behind, steadying himself with one hand on Bodie's hip while the other aimed his hardness at the waiting target. He rubbed the head of his penis a little above, a little below, finding the exact spot and pushing partly in before letting go of himself and leaning into Bodie, who was pushing back, hard.
It was at once evident that gravity was an aid to sex that he had never properly appreciated before. He could go deeper, harder and faster now, without worrying about what was happening outside their bodies. Bodie could push back with more enthusiasm. In and out were more definite, and the fuzzy effect of euphoria which Jump caused was not present. It was extraordinarily clear to Doyle what was happening. He was mating a man, a man who worked hard to give Doyle access to the deepest part of his body, a man who muscles milked Doyle on the upward stroke and opened to take him in even deeper on the downward thrust.
Bodie was making sounds, gasps and begging wordless moans, wanting more and more, and when Doyle reached his limit and heaved forward to bury himself as deeply as possible inside Bodie's hot body, and poured out into Bodie's darkness, Bodie was still striving to take more, still moving to gain the friction which brought him his delight. Bodie was so close that he had no time to do anything but claw with one-handed desperation at his own hard cock. He responded at once, spurting over his own wrist and hand just as Doyle pulled from his body.
Doyle lay, gasping for breath and only then realizing that the atmosphere here on Mars was an artificial mix, not as rich as the air on earth and obviously not designed for humans to labor in. His lungs burned, and from the way Bodie was panting, it was just as bad, or worse, for him. A dozen thoughts whirled through Doyle's head.
It wasn't just the Jump. He could mate with a man and have pleasure from it.
And give pleasure.
And, whatever else Bodie had been doing, it was not finding a little sex on the side. Unless Bodie had a phenomenal capacity for making love.
And, he was getting cold again.
Doyle crawled under the covers, and Bodie joined him. Hot Bodie, gathering him close, surrounding him. Kissing him softly, lovingly, on the cheeks and chin and lips.
Was Bodie just a generous, well trained lover? Or did he really care?
It was an uneasy thought, that Bodie might be beginning to care. Or did they have cameras on them as well as audio devices? It was an even worse thought to imagine that someone was watching them make love. He wiggled in response to the very idea, and Bodie's arms held him tighter, and his lips murmured soothing things, and Doyle let himself be convinced to relax, to accept the rubbing palms and nibbling lips.
It was the call to breakfast which woke them next. Bleary-eyed from not enough sleep, they dressed. Doyle tied the match ribbons around Bodie's arm and then Bodie did the same for him. It was hard to get match ribbons properly tied unless one had help from another person. Stories and vids made much of the special moment on the morning after making love, when first one and then the other fastened on the symbol of the match. Bodie, Doyle decided as he watched Bodie's swift and practical fingers, must not have watched the same shows, for the ritual apparently left him unmoved.
They went together to the relief station and then back to the main room, where a plain but filling selection of cereals awaited them. Bodie ate two portions, and immediately became more lively. Doyle studied the features through the haze of the privacy collar, frowning because it was beginning to annoy him that Bodie's face was hidden.
Arra Lee stood up and asked for everyone's attention. "I'm glad to see you all looking refreshed," she began. She didn't hear the snorting sound Bodie made, but Doyle did. He gave Bodie a poke under the table, while keeping his face politely neutral. "Today we begin with a visit to the largest dome on Mars. We'll, visit the hydro-gardens and the monument which marks the spot where humankind first set foot upon the red planet. We'll have lunch at the Rock Room, where you will be presented with an official souvenir slice of Mars. This is the only item you will be able to take back with you, except, of course, for the photos you might take. Photographs are not permitted in all areas, and if you are asked not to take a photo, please obey the request."
"Makes you wonder, doesn't it?" Bodie whispered. Doyle ignored him.
"You will have the opportunity afterwards to walk on the actual surface of Mars," Arra Lee went on. "Not outside, unfortunately, but in a special part of the dome. Afterwards, we will go to the Viking Auditorium, where several noted experts on Mars will answer any questions you have and explain their current research projects. We will then return here for the third meal. After that, we will allow you to retire early, because the next day will be devoted to..." she paused dramatically, "Valles Marineris!" Then, as if they did not all know, she explained. "The longest, most spectacular canyon in all of the solar system! Two thousand, five hundred miles long, this giant crack in the surface of Mars is also much deeper than anything found on earth.
"We will spend time at two different observation platforms, including one at Falling Rock, where, because of the wind storms which are the weather staple here, there is always rock or sand falling from the upper levels into that portion of the canyon. The day after that, we will take hoppers to see Olympus Mons, the greatest of the extinct volcanoes on Mars. It is almost three times as high as the highest mountain on Earth, Mt. Everest."
Bodie perked up at the idea of hoppers. "Never been in one of those," he said in an aside to Doyle.
"We will not return here but stay at a small research station that night. I'm afraid the conditions there will be quite primitive. We will have to stay in communal rooms, and will sleep on floor mats. The frontier experience will be further enhanced because we'll have to eat carry rations that day--and-carry them ourselves!"
"Sounds like the Army," Bodie whispered.
Arra Lee was continuing, "We hope the sights you see there will be worth any discomfort you might feel. We'll be taken on a tour of the Bradbury Caves! It's quite chilly down there, and you will have to wear special suits. Then, it's back here for a final day of local attractions, including the rock forms called The Zoo."
"Transportation will be slipwalk. It will seem slow to you, but in artificial gravity, the walks must be set at lower speeds. This is the last relief station for about two hours, so you may want to use it before joining the line." Arra Lee then led the way out of the room.
Bodie made an unobvious effort to be one of the first on the slipwalk, and he stood chatting to Arra Lee as they were carried down an unattractive corridor. Doyle, who had patrolled slipwalks for years, found himself automatically scanning the crowd behind them, fighting the urge to step off and check the regulator gauges. It was a slow slipwalk, and in his experience, that meant a malfunctioning slipwalk, and a malfunctioning slipwalk meant trouble. Arra Lee was telling Bodie that the slowness was a factor of the artificial gravity, and Bodie was smiling blandly at the redundancy. Doyle once again was reminded that he had all too obviously taken gravity for granted--and that women found his match an attractive man. Resolutely, he forced himself to stop watching the people around them and gave his, attention to Arra Lee to the point where she was soon addressing most of her comments to him.
The largest dome on Mars, when they arrived, was a bit of a disappointment. It smelled of uncirculated air and was criss-crossed the entire length with uncovered braces and girders. It was lit poorly, and the panels above shoulder height were all dull grey. Arra Lee explained how the winds and the sand scoured any glass or plastic panel into opaqueness in a short time, and so clear panels weren't installed except in special areas where force fields kept the abrasive grains at bay.
In one corner of the huge room, there was a prefab construction project with a dozen workers moving back and forth, in another, a machine processed plastic scraps for recycling. The walk across the open space to view each one, however, felt wonderfully liberating.
Humans weren't meant to exist in confined spaces, Doyle decided as he took a deep breath and lengthened his stride. It was only now that he realized the walls of ships and stations were entirely too close together. He felt deprived when he stepped into the hydro-gardens and was hemmed in by walls of green. At least these were living walls, which scented the air with a nose-wrinkling smells and a heavy pressing moistness. As gardens go, however, it was quite dull. The harvesting was done by grey little machines, tended by men and women in ugly tunics. He was glad to leave.
In a long line, the group next took a slipwalk to another building. The corridor was small and close, finished in plain green plastic of the cheapest type, and the lighting was bad. Bodie and Doyle were in the middle of the group this time, with Arra Lee ahead.
"They don't tell you about this part in the brochures," Doyle said as the slipwalk developed a bump and jostled them against each other. He automatically put out a hand to steady Bodie.
Bodie looked down at the hand and leaned forward so only Doyle could hear him. "My own personal pro, making sure I don't get hurt on the 'walks!"
Doyle was opening his mouth to reply when the slipwalk came to a jarring halt, and only because he had a firm hold on Bodie and years of experience did they stay upright. He let go of Bodie at once and went ahead to help some of their fellow travellers up from where they had been thrown to their knees. Bodie went to do the same in the opposite direction. Geode personnel soon came by, saying it was just an electrical problem which should soon be resolved.
Doyle went to the end of the line, saying the reassuring things a pro said, and then made his way back to the head of the line, where Arra Lee was in an intense whispered conversation with a frowning man in a rust colored coverall. No Bodie. As he thought about it, he decided there were other people he didn't recall seeing either. Frowning, he impolitely interrupted Arra Lee's conversation.
"Where's Bodie?" he asked.
She put on her polite face just a few moments too late to hide her irritation at having to stop and deal with him. "He went down line," she said, turning back to her conversation. The man had taken the opportunity to leave, to her apparent vexation.
"I've been to the end and didn't see him. Where did you see him last?" Doyle persisted.
"He was helping Tovie Cortese sit down," Arra Lee recalled. Doyle was away before she finished speaking, and she made an exasperated sound before he was out of range to hear.
Doyle forgot her before he had gone a dozen steps. Here was the Cortese woman, one of the older people in the group, surrounded by several chattering friends. There was a small service tunnel a few steps away. Acting in instinct, Doyle ducked into the entrance and, moving as quickly as the one gravity strip down the center of the space permitted, he checked it out. He had just decided that he had made a mistake and should turn back when he heard a muffled thump ahead.
He discovered that real running on a crude gravity strip tore the hell out of the calf muscles, and was slowing down from sheer painful necessity when he turned the corner and almost ran into a barrier pulled across the way. His hand touched cold steel, and he frowned. All the other doors he had encountered on Mars had been light plastic, only tokens to keep up the conventions.
This one was an airlock of some sort, he decided, finding the gauge set beside the door. Once again he heard a thump. Rapidly he punched the button beside the gauge and waited. Nothing happened. He punched it again. Still panting from his run, he stepped back restlessly, eyes searching for any other clues to the operation of the door, for evidence that Bodie had passed this way.
Click. The door began to open. As soon as he could, Doyle squeezed through. Lights came on automatically. Another door faced him. Doyle knew it wouldn't open until the one behind was shut. He also realized there was no gravity strip inside, although there was some residue from the field which kept him upright. He looked for and found a strap to hold onto just before he lost control of his feet. It seemed to take forever for the door to close. A chime caught his attention. A recorded voice told him flatly that protection level II apparel was required beyond this point. Doyle stabbed his thumb over the door button and hoped he was not making a large mistake. He took a deep breath as the door cracked open and the air rushed out with a low "whummmp" of sound. He leaned forward to see.
It was obviously a corridor under construction. The walls were in place, but the floor was native rock and the gravity strip was not yet in place. It was hard to see, because there were no lights except what was in the airlock. Within seconds, bitter cold flowed in. Still holding his breath, Doyle looked around frantically. There. To the left of the door? Pushing through the door as soon as he could wiggle out, he reached for the pile of plastic, throwing it to one side. Because of the change of gravity it did not go where he wanted it to, and his hands did not move as he wanted them to, and he was almost crying with frustration by the time he had cleared the plastic away.
The unconscious form of Bodie lay huddled there. Doyle grabbed him under the arms and hauled him towards the door, stumbling and almost falling because his sense of balance and even his ability to walk was affected by the combined effect of Bodie's weight lack of air and gravity. His head was pounding and he had to try to breathe--and there was little to breathe in. Black spots were dancing before his eyes when he and Bodie finally were inside and he pounded on the door button. slowly the door began to close again. That was when Doyle realized that one of Bodie's feet would block the door open unless he could get it out of the way. He jerked hard on Bodie's torso, banging the poor man's head ungently against the wall; finally he had to step over Bodie to grab the leg and pull it in.
By the time the door behind him finally opened, Doyle was so light-headed that he fell through it, gasping for breath and unable to do anything for half a minute except pant and clutch his pounding head. Almost at once, though, he was bending over Bodie's sprawled body, tilting his head back, pinching his nostrils and fastening his mouth over Bodie's.
Pro's training, taken every six months, and never before used. He wondered if he were doing it wrong, he reminded himself that he couldn't expect instantaneous results, and he counted out the seconds with a steadiness which he hadn't known he possessed.
He was rewarded when Bodie shuddered, inhaled, and gagged. Doyle sat up to check Bodie's pulse and color, and after one more catching breath Bodie turned his head and threw up all over them both.
That was when Doyle realized his feelings for Bodie had gone further than he had realized. The normal dismay and revulsion which should have come was so muted by stabbing anxiety and desperate hope that his only big reaction was relief that Bodie was actually moving, pulling himself up on his forearms. Head hanging, shoulders heaving, huffing and gasping, Bodie looked....
He looked a bit blue, and he was shivering. Doyle scrambled up to go get help, but Bodie reached out a trembling hand and closed it with startling strength on Doyle's arm.
"No." Bodie croaked, and then shook his head as if amazed that this odd sound came from his own mouth. "S…ssstay."
So Doyle stayed, rubbing the chilled limbs, the cold ears and face, wiping up the damp spots with his own sleeve because there was nothing else. Bodie was looking a little better when they heard the sound of approaching steps. They both scrambled to their feet, Doyle helping Bodie, so that they were upright and moving when a group of three rounded the corner.
Arra Lee was in the front, and two others in Geode uniforms were behind her. "There you are!" she cried with mixed relief and vexation, hurrying forward. "What happened to you?" she demanded, eyes going from one disheveled man to the other.
"I'm afraid he...ah, lost his lunch," Doyle said, that being one fact which was undeniable. "We tried to clean it up, but...." he paused and did a good impression of a person terribly embarrassed about the mess and the trouble.
"How unfortunate," the woman said, with what seemed to be sincerity, but also a touch of distaste. "Do you feel ill?"
"No, no," Bodie said in his roughened voice. "Think I just overdid it. Ducked down here hoping to find a relief station, but didn't. Very sorry about the...ah, floor. It won't hurt the gravity strip, will it?" He was following Doyle's lead and focusing on the socially difficult aspects of the situation. Being ill in public was considered poor manners, after all. If one was sick, one stayed home.
"I think he could use a place to lie down," Doyle inserted, taking the tone of a concerned match.
"No!" Bodie shook his head. "I'm fine. I just feel like a fool."
"Is there a place where we can rest? You could pick us up on your way back from the monument." Doyle spoke, but his face was turned towards Bodie, and he let himself look worried.
"Well, there's the Rock Room, where we'll be having lunch. It would be about an hour's wait," Arra Lee said dubiously.
"That would be fine. Maybe we could get some tea, let Bodie get his strength back." Doyle patted Bodie's arm.
"The slipwalk is functioning again. Let-me give you directions," Arra Lee said to Doyle. He listened to them, but he never took his eyes off Bodie, whose color was taking a long time to get back. After assuring one and all that he understood the directions and that Bodie was feeling much better, he finally managed to get them both away.
"What happened?" Doyle demanded as soon as they were on the slipwalk and out of sight.
Bodie glanced to the right and then the left, but said nothing. Doyle scowled, mentally damning Bodie and his paranoia. Who would be listening here?
It hit him hard, and suddenly. Someone had tried to murder Bodie. It might look as though he had huddled under the plastic for warmth, but Doyle was well aware that Bodie wasn't stupid, and he wasn't the sort to die curled up against the cold and waiting for his fate. No, Bodie would go down fighting all the way, which was probably what had happened.
"Who," Doyle started again, the need for silence and the anger at Bodie's assailants taking his voice to a lower register.
Bodie shook his head warningly.
With an expression on his face which would have embarrassed him if he had known it was there, Doyle, with poor grace, resigned himself to waiting. At least Bodie was looking better. They got off at the right number and walked to the Rock Room.
Perhaps a scientist would have found the place of interest. Rock samples from all over Mars lined the walls in a mosaic of reds and browns, with the most exotic or delicate specimens under clear plastic sheeting. The tables were huge slabs of red rock, each an irregular shape, and each surrounded by cheap plastic chairs.
A big man came forward from the bar which extended the length of the room, asked bluntly why they were there, and then accepted the explanation with a brief grunt. He did bring a big pot of hot tea and two cups, and a plate of crackers.
Bodie drank deeply, draining his cup after the first heat-testing swallow. Doyle poured him more.
"So sorry you got sick," Doyle said, more for something to say than anything else. It was so frustrating not to demand the answers to all the questions boiling in his mind.
"I'm familiar with the malady," Bodie replied, his fingers toying with two of the crackers. His eye met Doyle's, telling plainly that there was a second message to his words. "I felt that way before, on the ship." He was playing with the crackers, pushing them this way and that. Doyle carefully didn't look directly at the plate. A pattern? Letters?
It took a long moment for his brain to pull up a name.
"Just one symptom, or several?" Doyle asked.
"Oh, just the one, but it can take you by surprise, you know."
"Should you see a doctor?" Shouldn't you get help, Doyle wanted to know. Why hadn't he reported that he had been attacked? Was that the way CI5 worked? He also meant the question literally. Throwing up hadn't been a good sign. Doyle knew it happened sometimes with head injuries, and that there were chemicals which caused that reaction as well. Was Bodie letting a dangerous situation go untreated? "I'll be fine," Bodie said.
Which didn't mean he was fine now. Doyle scowled.
"That expression always makes me want to kiss it off your face," Bodie said.
Doyle tried to ease his face into more acceptable lines, and decided that if Bodie were thinking about kisses, maybe he wasn't hurt all that much. He took a deep swallow of tea, "You're probably hungry," he commented. Safe assumption. Bodie was always interested in food. "It looks like they're setting out a buffet."
Bodie sat up straighter and looked pleased. "We have time for a visit to the relief room," Bodie said, quickly finishing what was in his cup. "Come on. Let's find one."
Doyle was going to wave him away and say he wasn't in need of one, but he had second thoughts and pushed himself away from the table. Better not to let Bodie go off on his own, obviously.
The relief room here was larger than most, and two of the walls were of red stones, as was the floor. It was just a little cold, and the gravity was in one strip, so that it faded out the closer one was to the walls. They took turns using the facility, and cleaning up.
When Doyle turned to go, Bodie was blocking the way, and his laughing eyes held a message Doyle understood perfectly.
"Here? Now? You're mad! The whole group will be here soon!" Doyle backed up as he spoke, his hands coming up as if to ward off Bodie's thoughts.
"We have twenty minutes, at least. They do everything to a schedule, Doyle, you know they do? And we're almost the only customers in the place!"
"So they'll notice how long we're in here!"
"They know we're new matches," Bodie said, flicking the ends of the ribbons. It shouldn't have seemed a suggestive gesture. Doyle swallowed, hard.
"You're obsessed," Doyle sighed.
"With you," Bodie said suavely, moving forward and backing Doyle up against the red stone wall. What a line! How many had he said it to? Doyle was going to say something about it, but Bodie's mouth was on his, and he forgot about words. Bodie made the most of Doyle's mouth, and then his neck and earlobes, while his hands were busy at Doyle's waist. Doyle knew Bodie was doing it, and he wanted to push away, wanted to stop it--but didn't want to stop it. His trousers were pealed open and big warm hands explored and touched him, then Bodie swiftly kneeled and warm red lips nibbled and caressed each crease and curve and....
"Aghhh!" Doyle couldn't keep his reaction to himself as Bodie closed his mouth over Doyle's tall penis. As plants grow when given wetness and warmth, so too did Doyle. He fought hard against thrusting into Bodie's mouth, too aware of where they were, of listening for Arra Lee and the group to return, to get caught up in the moment--until Bodie's fingers began rolling his balls, and his mouth became more than a passive receptacle for Doyle's organ, but a sucking, moving universe of wonder. Bodie took him deeply, over and over, and Doyle could not help it, he thrust in hard, and he felt the angle change, felt himself slide impossibly far into Bodie's throat as he let go and was lost in the spearing hot pleasure.
The air was chill, and on his wet penis it was freezing, and Doyle wished he could be inside Bodie's heat again. His genitals drew up uncomfortably. Bodie's broad hands tucked him into his trousers again, fastening everything up tightly. Doyle's glance found Bodie's crotch, knowing what he would find there. Thickness, straining. Waiting.
It wasn't hard to kneel before Bodie, to fold away the cloth and let the tower free of the confines of it. It wasn't hard to touch it, taste it, to play his tongue along the ridges and dip into the hollows. It wasn't hard to suck gently on the head, to use his hand on the thick shaft, to bring it to fullness. It soon made his jaw ache, his tongue did not seem to have room to move. Bodie was being careful not to choke him. To make sure, to keep control, Bodie wrapped a hand around Doyle's head, fingers deep in the crisp curls, and he held him steady as he made small and slow thrusts, little hip snaps which were translated into immense presence within the ring of Doyle's lips.
Bodie's eyes looked down into Doyle's green ones, and he thought he saw a sweet smile on Bodie's lips, but the privacy collar hid the nuances from him, to Doyle's annoyance. His frown was translated into more pressure on Bodie's cock, and Bodie increased his hip action in response, and Doyle realized he had hard hold of Bodie's thighs and Bodie was making small sounds of intense desire, was warning him, but not pulling back.
He half choked when the last thrust went in so far that as Bodie came he could feel the jetting pulses against the back of his throat. Struggling not to gag, he swallowed as best he could, and he struggled to breathe, gasping when Bodie pulled away and he at last had air. When he could take notice of himself and his surroundings, he discovered they were both on the cold floor. The pull of the gravity strip all along his naked body felt uncomfortable and even though he wanted only to lie and rest, he forced himself up. He reached down and pulled Bodie up as well, and as his match leaned against the wall and struggled to breathe, Doyle fastened him into his clothing again.
"How you have the energy...." Bodie began a moment later, only to be interrupted by noise at the door. "Damn."
"I told you," Doyle said, but not in tones of recrimination.
Bodie only grinned. Both of them carefully and politely ignored the face of the man who waited outside the relief room. They went back to their table, and they were soon joined by the tour group, all chattering and excited about their visit to the First Step monument.
Bodie ate, and Doyle gave most of his food to Bodie, and listened to what was said. He gathered the monument itself was plain, and he decided it did not bother him excessively to have missed it.
What did bother him was when, without consulting him by even so much as a glance, Bodie told Arra Lee that as he still felt unsettled, both of them would be returning to their room.
"No wonder you were unmatched when I met you," Doyle said as soon as Arra Lee had moved to the next cluster of tourists, "A bit high handed, aren't you?"
"Part of my charm," Bodie claimed. Doyle knew several ancient finger gestures. He selected one and offered it in a way which allowed Bodie, but not the general public, a view of his opinion. "Your charm, however," Bodie said, "could use some work. Come on, you can practice on the way home." He stood up, and Doyle stood up too. They were noticed as they made their way out of the room. Doyle used the opportunity to look over the group. Kurt Donely was not there, but he could find no others missing.
They took the slipwalk, standing near each other, changing at the intersections with an awkwardness which annoyed Doyle, and once, stepping aside for a large piece of equipment being shoved and tugged along by two sweating workers in green tunics.
Once off the slipwalk, they headed directly for their room.
There was no warning.
Two men and a woman came from a side corridor. They carried simple weapons: a length of pipe, a handful of flexible plastic hosing, a sharpened bit of steel, and they all wore privacy collars.
It was an awkward fight, in cramped quarters, and no one had the breath for shouting and so the sounds of flesh on flesh, of weapon on flesh, were loud. Bodie had reacted at once, using a low sweep to throw one to the ground even as he struck another with his hand. Doyle, half a second behind Bodie in his reactions, was ducking the vicious hacking of the man with the crude knife. The edge of it drew blood, the pain was distracting, and Doyle found himself fighting desperately, drawing on every shred of skill he had, every bit of agility and strength.
A tumble away from the gravity strip twisted his ankle, and he fell over the woman after Bodie sent her crashing into the wall, but Doyle managed to place a solid blow to the neck of his opponent and then to kick the woman as she started to rise. Bodie was moving in on the other man when a shout behind them for order and good behavior caused Doyle to look back, relief in his face.
He never saw the blow which knocked him down. Excruciating pain in his nose, his face, kept him slumped there, trying desperately to keep from falling into the blackness which was suddenly all around him. Dimly, he could hear voices.
It was a familiar voice, male. He blinked desperately against the pain and tried to put a name to it.
"Sorry, sir. They're good," the woman said, but she didn't say it with any admiration in her voice.
One of the men was hauling Doyle to his feet. Reminding himself that he was a Pro, that he could not afford to give into any weakness now, he fought nausea, and tried to focus his eyes. One of them was swelling, shut. He reached up to wipe at his face, and felt something sticky cling to it. He brushed it away. It was his match ribbon, no longer silky and blue, but coated with red. He grimaced. A motion seen out of the corner of his eye took his attention from the bloody strings. He peered out, blinking and swaying. Briefly he managed to force his eyes to land on a shape. Man? His memory supplied a name.
Terry Arello? Did that mean the woman with the privacy collar was Talla Dru? She was the right height.... He blinked again. Something was sticking his eyes together. More blood, he, realized, dripping down from a cut in his scalp.
"Get them moving," Terry was saying. What was he doing? His Gameboard was in his hands, hands which moved although the man never once glanced down.
Bodie was hauled to his feet, and Doyle wondered when he had been knocked down. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and practically fell from the roaring and the pain. His match staggered as he was shoved along, and Doyle wondered if Bodie were hurt in some way which couldn't be seen. The idea made him angry, and the anger cleared his head a bit.
Arello was taking a twist of plastic from the Gameboard, and popping out the power cell. What a stupid time to change cells, Doyle was thinking, just as the taller of the privacy collared men handed something to Arello, who clipped it onto the plastic he already held, just as Bodie jerked his head up in startled recognition.
A weapon! Just the sort of weapon which had been used on Bodie once before? Memory of the scar, the fused flesh across otherwise perfect features came hard on the heels of the coldness of fear.
The weapon killed.
They were trying to kill Bodie.
He was thinking only of Bodie as he acted. Drawing on reserves he never imagined he had, he let launched himself at Arello, letting lose a cry with all his anger, his fear, his determination behind it. Their bodies went down together in a tangle of arms and legs. Shouts behind him told a story of three against one, impossible odds for Bodie in his weakened condition.
Now! No time! Bodie....
In the back of his soul, something tore, releasing adrenalin, releasing his temper and his strength. He didn't even realize it as his hands found Arello's neck, as fine bones with were crushed and the head slammed down hard on the floor. It would not have been enough to kill on earth, but the gravity strip was directly under the man's head and both the ridge of the center and the pull of it aided his anger. He knew when it happened, and he let go of the empty weight, scrabbling instead for what the man had held.
So simple. Point. Press.
The red line touched the woman first, her shoulder, and then her face. She screamed, and staggered back, hands up as if to hold off the energy; her hands were not equal to the job. Doyle moved the beam, aiming it at the man who was punching Bodie again and again. It made him stop. The third man was running. There was just enough power in the weapon to make him fall to the ground, yelping.
With a hiss, the red line faltered and was gone.
"Bodie?" Doyle tried to shout, pushing himself up as the thing fell from his hand. "Bodie?"
"Aghh." A flat sound, but Bodie was lifting his head, was staring around at the carnage, first in blank wonder, then with a grim smile on his face. Then he looked at Doyle as if he were seeing him for the first time, blinked, and smiled another feral smile. Clutching the wall, he pulled himself to his feet. Unsteadily he came over, bent to pick up the bit of plastic which had been so deadly a moment before, and slid it into his pocket before he took hold of Doyle's arm. "Come on."
Doyle let himself be pulled along. To his dull surprise, they did not head in the direction of their room, or back towards the slipwalk, but turned and went down a passage Doyle had not seen before. Unsteady on his feet, fighting both his own fragile state and the draining pull of the gravity strip, Doyle followed along without question--until they entered what was plainly a private room.
A woman's private room.
Doyle opened-his mouth to speak, but Bodie made a gesture of silence and Doyle kept himself from speaking--barely. As if he lived there himself, Bodie rummaged around, coming up with bottled water and a soft cloth, which he handed to Doyle, and some sort of communication unit, into which he tapped a code.
When he put the unit down, he saw that Doyle had done nothing with the items, which he held loosely in trembling hands. Bodie opened the bottle, drank some water, and then put the bottle to Doyle's lips. Numbly, Doyle drank, tasting nothing. He scarcely noticed as blood was dabbed from his face and eyes. He only reacted, jumping to his feet, when the door opened.
It was the pilot, Littlepony. She didn't speak, but put several items into a kit bag from under the bed, and then motioned for them to follow her. Doyle looked at Bodie, who nodded, and so Doyle forced his exhausted body out the door. Bodie almost died only a few hours ago, he told himself. He must hurt even more than you do, he thought, and knew that if Bodie could go on, then Doyle was obligated to follow his example.
They did not take the slipwalks, and they did not travel in a straight line. Even dazed and tired, Doyle knew they doubled back once, and perhaps twice. Was someone chasing them? Why hadn't they gone to the authorities? They reached a door marked for authorized personnel only, and there was no one in the hall to see them enter. It was even colder on the other side, and the gravity strips were at half power. Another turn, another door. This one required a code key, but Littlepony knew the pattern and they were soon on the other side.
The doors here were wide, designed for cargo and not people. They went through the last one, stepping into the cargo bay of a shuttle.
Littlepony went right to the cockpit, strapping in even as she was reading the dials and reaching for the controls; Doyle and Bodie took the seats right behind her. There was too much noise for conversation as their pilot maneuvered into position and took off. Immediately, there was a babble from the communications system. Littlepony didn't answer the queries about who she was and what the hell she thought she was doing, but grinned widely and gunned into take off position. She rattled her passengers severely as she left the surface. Only two minutes later she shouted.
"Bingo! You were right, Bo! They've scrambled two ships after us! Let's head up!" Gravity cut out. Doyle felt sick. He became light-headed quickly, and lost track of time--or perhaps he lost consciousness for a short period. He did know they went through several gut-wrenching twists and turns, and once Littlepony shrieked in excitement or some other strong emotion. Doyle was lost in the hazy fog of pain and disorientation and didn't even look up to see what had caused her to scream.
He roused when they docked at the station. Bodie helped him stand, and he was forced to walk on weak legs which tingled from being held in the same position for too long. Littlepony shook Bodie's hand, winked in Doyle's direction and strode off.
"Where are we?" Doyle asked, rubbing his throbbing head.
"On our way home," Bodie said simply.
"Don't give me any half answers, Bod...Bond! I'm not in the mood for it," Doyle snarled.
"Your pardon, Pro," Bodie said with mock good manners. "We're on station, arranging space home on the next available ship."
"What's going on, Bodie," Doyle insisted.
"That I can't tell you," Bodie said, and seeing Doyle's face, he held up his hands. "It's the truth. Not until we reach a secured room. Right now, though, you need a doctor."
Before Doyle could reply to that, the door opened and four men and women wearing medical badges strode in pulling two anti-grav gurneys.
Doyle stood watching them approach, watched Bodie argue with them, watched them bully Bodie onto one of the gurneys. It was as if he were seeing all of it from a far distance. He wasn't at all surprised when everything went black again. He remembered thinking how good it was to lay down....
Waking up rested, medicated and clean, between clean sheets and with almost normal gravity, Doyle did not sit up at once, but stretched out, enjoying the luxury. It was a mistake. The medication didn't reach to the deep ache behind his eyes, or eliminate the bone deep soreness in his legs. Curiosity forced him to eventually prop himself up enough to look at his surroundings.
Odd beds. Some sort of frame around it. Straps, too, although they weren't being used at the moment. Beds. The other one held Bodie. Even though all he could see was a bit of dark hair under the white covers, he knew it was Bodie.
The door opened. A doctor came in, and the sound of it woke Bodie, who sat up with an ease which Doyle envied. Bodie looked well, with a healthy color to his face and bright eyes. When Doyle realized Bodie was not wearing his privacy collar, Doyle let himself study the seldom-seen face. He was concentrating on it so hard, he didn't hear the first words the doctor said. Forcing himself, he turned his attention to her.
"...no permanent damage," the doctor said to Doyle with professional cheerfulness, "but we don't have the facility here for cosmetic correction. You'll have to get that done at home. You'll have to keep these medicated bandages in place until surgery. We'll provide a privacy collar, of course. Have you any questions?" she asked.
"Where are we?" Doyle asked, half his question being directed over at Bodie.
"Army ship," Bodie said briskly. "Heading back home. With prisoners," he added.
"Prisoners?" Doyle frowned.
"Dru, Donely and five other people. Plus, thanks to you, a sample of that new weapon."
"Gameboard," Doyle remembered. Arello had made it from parts of a common Gameboard.
"Guess who owns stock in the company which makes them?" Bodie asked him.
Coogan. The thought of the Con started a chain reaction in his mind, caused him to follow a thread of memory back to Mars, to...was it yesterday? To desperation and the deep rush of terror and fear and anger.
To killing. Bodie had not mentioned Terry Arello.
"Arello." Doyle said aloud.
"We have his body in cold storage. The lab boys might be able to run some power through his brain and pull out some holographic images from the memory, but the doc says maybe it's been too long." Bodie was being so practical about it, calm.
"I killed him."
"Yeah, thanks. He almost had me, mate, and frankly, I've felt the pain of that weapon before. I'm just as glad not to have to feel it again." Bodie looked up at the doctor, who was looking fascinated. Bodie was not looking at his match, who was slightly pale green.
I killed him. The memory of how it felt under his hands, the give of the flesh, the choke of faltering breath, the encompassing power of the anger he had felt, came back to him with chilling clarity. I killed him.
But I killed him.
Just like a Con. No different from the Caught. Pain lanced through him, some of it physical, some of it mental. It was hard to breathe.
The doctor was the first to notice there was something wrong. She leaped to the monitor, then reached into the case at the head of the bed, pulled out an injector, and firmly set it against his arm. The drug took effect almost immediately, cooling him, taking away his emotions and leaving him lying in the bed, calm and quiet. Bodie was demanding to know what was wrong, but Doyle couldn't hear the doctor's answer. He closed his eyes.
Bodie was there. Talking. Talking to him.
"...not worth your pain, Sunshine. It wasn't planned, remember. It was something you had to do. Protecting me. That's what Pros do, isn't it? Protect? Don't think of it as a killing. Don't even take into account he deserved whatever happened to him. Just remember you did your job. Protected the public, Doyle. Lots more public than you can imagine. Thanks to you, we may have this bunch stopped cold. We can at least round up some of the Cons involved. Cowley's pleased with you," Bodie added, in a tone which said that was a rare enough occurrence. "With us. He thought he'd shunted us off on a safe jaunt, and instead, we pulled a Con cell out of concealment. There'll be dozens questioned and put under watch. That may not seem like much right now, but if it prevents a killing or two, that's good, isn't it? You're saving lives, Doyle."
The doctor left. Doyle hardly noticed.
Bodie's hand was stroking Doyle's arm and shoulder, his voice was calming, and on a far away level, what he said even made sense. But on a closer level, Doyle was left feeling an odd coldness and odder anger.
"You lied to me."
"What?" Bodie's hand stilled on Doyle's shoulder.
"You knew from the beginning something was happening. You never told me anything." Doyle felt used. Manipulated.
"I couldn't say anything, Doyle! What if we had been overheard? Even on the moon, yeah, there was something going on. I knew that when Cowley flipped the switch. It was a sure sign something was wrong."
"Flipped the switch?"
"I'm implanted, Doyle. All CI5 agents are. Everything I saw or heard was recorded, once Cowley suspected something was going on."
"Implanted?" Doyle had heard of it, but mostly it was a feature of the more lurid vids. He had never considered that Bodie have a recording device in his brain.
"Yeah. I couldn't even tell you, because I had orders not to speak about the case in any way. The implants mean information goes directly to CI5 when we're on earth, out here it goes into a storage coil which in this case will be zipped in to CI5 once we're in range. With the implant, I don't have to worry that someone can record what I say when I report in. Can't give away all you know to the enemy at the same time you tell the boss, can you? The cons have listening chips everywhere, Doyle. As fast as we get rid of one source, they come up with another. But with implants, everything I say and hear and do goes into the memory in it, and I don't even have to submit evidence when the trial comes up. It's...."
Doyle interrupted. "Everything you say and do is recorded?" Bodie nodded, and Doyle came up onto one arm, struggling to sit up. "Do you mean every time we...each time you even kissed me, everything I said to you while we.... It was recorded?"
"Yeah, but don't worry about that. None of that goes into the trial records, or even into the CI5 files."
"Making love? The things we said to each other? Somebody will see them, hear them?" Doyle wanted to know.
"Sure, but everybody does those things. They get edited out--the patterns--before it gets transcribed. They get automatically computer-erased in the storage and trial copies. Only one or two people will see the whole record, and those will be CI5 people or someone from the trial board who checks to make sure there's no unlawful editing."
"Oh, just a few people," Doyle said in a cutting voice. "Just a few to listen to....everything!"
"You'll get compensated. A privacy invasion payment, eventually." Bodie patted his match soothingly.
Doyle shrugged off the hand, pushing away from Bodie. "I suppose the damn thing is on now?"
"Has to be, until we get back for debriefing." Bodie said in a reasonable tone.
Doyle turned his lips up in a nasty parody of a smile. "Fine. Record this." He presented Bodie and Cowley with the most obscene hand gesture he knew and then said, "Get out."
"Get out. Both of you."
"Look, it's nothing personal, and it can save lives! It saved mine often enough!" Bodie told him hotly.
Doyle turned over, presenting his backside to Bodie. His message was quite clear.
"We'll talk later," Bodie said firmly, and left the room.
When he was gone, Doyle rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. There were hand straps there. This was a space ship, after all. He wondered when they would be going into Jump. Jump reminded him of loving Bodie.
His mind replayed every moment which had occurred since he had met Bodie, knowing that everything he remembered was available for CI5 viewing. Every kiss. Every begging groan and cry of delight. How could Bodie endure knowing that a colleague would hear him pleading for deeper penetration in the pseudo-free fall of Jump, see Doyle as he thrust his cock into Bodie's mouth in a primitive, ugly relief station on Mars?
It was clear to him that if everything was seen through Bodie's eyes, then Bodie wasn't in the pictures often. It wasn't Bodie somebody would be watching. It was all of Doyle, Doyle in every frame. Bodie, Doyle knew, had spent a great deal of time looking at him, even when the job had not called for it. With pettiness, Doyle hoped Cowley noticed this and scraped Bodie's hide for it.
The medical technician came to check the equipment, and the nurse came to help him to the relief room. The doctor came to check her machines, and Bodie came to the door and looked in, although he said nothing and left almost at once. The heavy sensation which was the beginning of Jump told him what was happening even before someone thought to come in and mention it. Doyle found it hard to care.
He slept through the early stages, perhaps with medical assistance. He woke several times. How odd to see the technician floating beside him, above him, he thought once. Another time, he woke to see Bodie, again at the door but this time, somehow, upside down and holding onto a strap.
Doyle had nightmares. The doctor was in again, working over him with big concerned eyes. More chemicals were poured into his veins. His head hurt. Jump seemed to last forever. His dreams were of loving Bodie, but often they were only the beginnings of a joining, kisses, whispers, stroking hands. Bodie would be in his embrace and then just...drift away.
When his dreams were not of Bodie, they were of weapons which shot red lines of energy, of screams and falling, of his hand around a neck he could not let go.
And once he dreamed of Ann, closing the door in his face, turning away from him and leaving him alone in the corridor.
When he didn't dream, there was reality to deal with. The confinement of the bed drove him crazy, and in Jump he was not even allowed to leave it for sanitary reasons. He hated the device which wrapped around his loins, hated everything which kept him strapped down.
His face hurt. His wound and his sinus passages both refused to drain as they ought, and there were more shots, more people. Jump wound down, and with the return to normal space came a return to a measure of wellness. At least he could think again. Sometimes.
The doctor came as Jump was fading and repeated her tests and frowned. "You'll have some trouble getting this cheek repaired," she said honestly. "You've lost bone, and the replacements will be delicate. Have you always wanted a complete change in your appearance? Now would be the time to apply for it. It would be paid for by the government, you see, and it may well be easier to resculpt the entire face rather than to recreate the original appearance."
Doyle had never had the inclination to change his appearance that way. "No. I don't want to look like anyone else," he said.
"Good," said a voice from the door, and Bodie pulled himself into the room.
"Your opinion doesn't matter," Doyle told him.
"Of course it does. You're my match, after all." Bodie came over and draped himself over the end of the bed frame. "How do you feel?" he asked.
"Good enough to take a walk a little later?"
Doyle glanced at the doctor, who nodded. "Probably. Why?"
Bodie looked at the doctor and stared, causing the other to nod curtly and, leave.
"We're bypassing the moon and landing on the Army station in orbit. From there we'll take a shuttle down to CI5 headquarters. You'll be debriefed, and then taken into surgery just afterwards. Once we dock at the station there won't be much time to talk."
Doyle let his face show that he didn't have much interest in talking--at least, not in talking to Bodie.
"I know you're angry with me. Look at it from my side, mate. I didn't have a choice, did I? orders, but it was good sense, too."
Doyle didn't say anything.
"They were following me from the start. Maybe they weren't fooled, but the trip to Mars made them scramble, made them use up resources, made them tip their hand and reveal some of their people. That might not have happened if they had early information.
"Other things might not have happened if I had early information," Doyle inferred darkly.
"I know. So you can't expect me to mourn about that, Doyle. Being with you was great. I don't regret it." Bodie's jaw was set firmly.
"I do. But you don't understand that, do you? You're used to that thing in your head. The average person knows the public halls are public, everybody knows you are to be restrained in public, keep things quiet, keep things to yourself. Private places are different. But not for you. And not for anyone near you."
"This thing isn't turned on all the time, Doyle. Just when I'm on a job! And not always the whole time then."
"How do you know?" Doyle asked sharply. "For all you know, it could be on all the time, and a hundred people a day have access to the tapes. What proof do you have that it isn't like that?"
"I have Cowley's word, Doyle. I'm in CI5 because I trust the old man, and if the job has to be done, it's best done with an honest man at the top."
"Sorry. I'm not that trusting."
"It's because you don't know him."
"I think I'd like to keep it that way," Doyle retorted. "He kept facts from me which violated my health and sanity. But I'll get some money out of it, so of course there's no real problem, is there?" he added sarcastically.
"Nasty bit of work when you get angry, aren't you?" Bodie said in a tone that was more admiring than otherwise.
"Recording that for posterity, too?" Doyle asked.
"It's still on, if that's what you mean."
"Why? Doesn't Cowley trust an Army ship?" Doyle asked, implying that he himself wouldn't.
"The Army's made up of men and women. There's probably a few bad ones here as well. But don't you forget, the Army got us off Mars when we needed off."
Doyle opened his mouth to say it wasn't the Army that got them away, it was Littlepony. "One of your old Army buddies, was she?" Doyle asked.
"Yes. Best pilot in the section."
"Who just happened to be working on Mars."
Bodie frowned. "Who risked her life to help us out," he countered pointedly "And her job."
Doyle made a gesture of dismissal. "I'm sure Cowley will come up with some payment to make up for it!"
"I think," Bodie said, standing up, "I'll go see if lunch is ready."
Doyle said nothing, and after a pause, Bodie left. Doyle sighed. He didn't want to fight with Bodie, but he couldn't agree with him either. All he wanted to do, in fact, was go back home and be done with all of this.
Back to normal. A life without Bodie. It was a flavorless thought. He'd wondered, on Mars, that he was in love with Bodie--or close to it. Now he was not so sure. Bodie didn't seem to understand.
But what if Bodie did understand, and was only being reticent because of the implant? What did Bodie feel? He was glib in his appreciation of Doyle's body, of their love making, but how did he really feel?
Did he feel at all?
Did it matter?
He worried himself into a doze again, to be woken up by the doctor and nurse, who checked his vital signs, and then helped him dress. The clothing wasn't his own. His was back on Mars. He told himself it was easier having nothing to carry. He remembered the match ribbons he had worn, turned to ugly strings by the red blood which soaked them. He obviously wasn't going to be one of those people who returned from the match trip and lovingly packed the ribbons away, to be taken out and worn on anniversaries and special occasions. His were cut off him and immediately tossed into the recycle bin. It seemed appropriately symbolic of the entire relationship.
They helped in on with the privacy collar--he had never worn one before--and gave him medicine to prevent nausea, and the doctor gave him a few last minute instructions and a packet of simple pain-dimmers in case he found the trip in any way taxing,
Walking was harder than he had expected. The pull of the gravity strip was painful; the few exercises they had helped him do in bed to keep up the strength in his arms and legs had obviously not been enough.
Bodie was nowhere in sight as Doyle, with the nurse hovering at his shoulder, was escorted to his place in the shuttle. The other passengers were probably all Army. Half of them were wearing privacy collars. How many of them were injured under their wavering masks?
The shuttle was launched from the Army ship, a procedure different from the lift-off Doyle had previously experienced. He was glad for the tablets the doctor had insisted he take. The wall was taken up by a continual newscast once they were under way, interesting enough to hold Doyle's attention. He was reminded of how long he had been gone. Only a few weeks out of his life, but months out of the lives of everyone he knew back on earth. Curiously, he felt somehow cheated out of time which everyone else had. Time to get over Ann, time to get on with his life. Instead, here he was, as confused and heart-weary as he had been the day Ann had rejected him.
They landed at the port, but on the far side from the terminal where the passenger lines stabled their shuttles. A suave man with a plain face and an efficient manner came asking for Doyle, and then escorted him to a monorail compartment.
Doyle was almost unaware of his surroundings. He was enjoying the wonderful sensation of natural gravity. His legs, and even his entire body, felt measurably better under the even, reliable pull of the planet. He felt lighter, he felt stronger, and when he sat down, it was comfortable for once. Only with the removal of the artificial gravity did he realize how wearing and draining it had been. He had a new appreciation of the air as well and took deep breaths every few minutes. He wanted to go home, to enjoy the comfort of his normal surroundings and the new joys of natural movement and fresh air. Instead, he was taken into a government building and led through a warren of offices until he was certain he could never find his way out again.
His guide left him in a high-ceiling room with an antique desk in the center and old-style carpet on the floor. He sat waiting only a few seconds before the door behind the desk opened and George Cowley came in. His greeting was polite, even friendly, but his voice had that round edge of a Higher and Doyle was not entirely at his ease.
"First," Cowley said as he sat down and adjusted the settings of his flat screen, which took up almost the entire surface of the desk, "I will tell you society owes you a debt for your assistance in keeping down the destructive elements. You have not only allowed us to put our hands on several individuals who have done harm to the whole, but you have put into our hands an actual copy of a Con weapon. We are most grateful."
Doyle didn't say anything. Cowley gave him a long, steady look out of his pale eyes, and then glanced down at the flat screen.
"The department is compensating you for the cost of two tickets to Mars, for the loss of clothing and possessions, for placing you in a Level Two risk situation, and for your assistance to our operative. We will also pay all medical costs for the repair of your body and for whatever cosmetic correction may be needed at a later date."
Doyle nodded. Cowley gave him another look, but then flicked off the flat screen and placed his hands on the now dark desk top. We will ask you to submit, in your own words, descriptions of a certain portion of your...adventures. These will be used in future court cases. We will also question you while you are under certain drug combinations. 3.7 has brought to my attention...Bodie has informed me of your antipathy towards certain of our methods. You have my personal assurance that we will in no way pry into matters which could be considered personal, and that if such are inadvertently revealed, we will not include them in the final record. Despite appearances to the contrary, we do consider the rights of citizens to be of importance."
Doyle nodded again.
"I must now approach a less...an issue which you will not find pleasant. This involves the death of Con citizen Terry Arello. There will be no Declaration against you, as you acted in defense of other citizens. However, as a Pro, perhaps you are aware of the regulations which require certain steps to be taken in these matters."
Doyle sat up a little straighter, frowning.
"The normal procedures involve a sectional memory wipe, but that is not recommended in your case because of your duties as a Pro, and...other factors. The other option is an implant, which...."
"No!" Doyle was up on his feet, face red, his green eyes blazing. "I won't have one of those obscenities in my head!"
Cowley remained calm. "I understand your feelings in this matter, but we are not speaking of the type of device my agents wear. Although, I would like to address that matter as well. Please sit down," he added. It was said kindly, but it was also an order. Doyle glowered, but sat.
"It has been suggested to me that you would make an acceptable CI5 agent. You have the physical rating and the intelligence needed, and have shown yourself able to react as required in a crisis situation. 3.7 has expressed an interest in working with you on a regular basis."
"If by 3.7 you mean Bodie, then I respectfully decline!"
"And if it were not Bodie? Would you consider our offer then?" Cowley asked.
"Not," Doyle snapped out, barely polite, "at the present time."
"Pity. I could use a man of your abilities. The levels of Con activity are rising. We suspect them now of having long range goals which involve more than just activities on this planet. I have been authorized to increase my forces."
"Isn't the Army enough?" Doyle asked.
"The Army is not under my control. Too, the Army does not have a good reputation. The Army has a place in this struggle, Doyle, but it is not the primary tool at our disposal. We are wary of giving the Army too much power or influence. It is not to the best interests of society to have too many soldiers employed here. However, a Pro is another matter. Some of our best agents have been drawn from those ranks." He paused. "I see that I have not convinced you. Would it change your mind if I told you that not only Bodie requested teaming with you? The agent who processed this report also expressed an interest in being teamed with one of your ability."
"What about this implant?" Doyle asked, ignoring the reference to Bodie.
"Very well. We are required to monitor anyone who has caused a death, for at least a year. It is both for your safety and that of others. It will be in the passive mode except for random thirty second transmissions. However, given the possibility that the Con segment of society may extract some retaliation for the death of a member, you will also be trained in the methods which will allow you to activate the implant yourself."
"Thank you," Doyle said, although he knew the other recognized there were no thanks involved at all, just a desire to be gone.
"Then please go with the gentleman you find waiting outside the door. He will take your statements and then escort you to the medical facility."
Politely, but without warmth, Doyle stood the few seconds good manners required and then he headed for the door. The tall, good looking man there introduced himself as Murphy and took him to a small, unadorned room which contained a terminal, a table and two chairs, where Doyle was expertly questioned for almost three hours. Doyle was starving by the time they were finished. No wonder Bodie ate so much whenever he got a chance. CI5 didn't seem to believe in meal breaks. When Doyle mentioned his need for food, Murphy told him the doctors wouldn't allow it before surgery, but he did call for two cups of tea, which were barely warm when it was finally delivered.
Murphy, although he acted as a friend might, was clearly a guard, for he even followed Doyle into the relief room when Doyle asked for the stop. He turned Doyle over to the doctors with a pat on his shoulder and thanks for "keeping our man safe."
The doctors asked him once again if he wished to change his face, and when he expressed interest in retaining his old one, they drew up recent photographs of him from the files--one taken from his conversation with Cowley when he was on the moon, he noticed--fed them into the computer for a composite, had him initial image as the result he wanted, and then prepped him for the operation.
One moment he was easing down on the bed, the next he was being asked to wake up. They kept him for a day, and several times CI5 agents came to ask for further details of one aspect or another of his statement. After a night where he slept like a baby, they gave him a light meal, they gave him instructions for the care of his healing tissues, they gave him a privacy collar, and they turned him over to Murphy again, who gave him instructions concerning the implant which was now part of his head. It took most of the morning. Murphy was patient, but Doyle was not. He listened, he nodded, he asked if he could go, and as soon as he had permission, he went. He made the mistake of not taking the monorail. When he first set out, the idea of a long trip, with plenty of time for thinking, appealed.
The slipwalks seemed crowded, but the familiar sounds and smells were soothing to him. He made his changes smoothly, and enjoyed doing it. His neighborhood came into sight, and he got off a stop ahead so that he could wander through a few of his favorite shops before heading home. He was exhausted before his door opened for him, but he was in no mood to sleep. He threw off the privacy collar--how did Bodie stand to wear one for long?--and he looked over the place, which seemed undisturbed in his absence.
Home. Two rooms, comfortable, restful. He tapped in the codes for his favorite music, and changed out of the drab outfit the hospital had provided and into his own clothing before he turned on his kitchen unit. Tea first, and then a meal of fresh ingredients, all of his own choosing. Putting it together was a pleasure, eating it was a joy, even if he did punctuate it with yawns. Sitting in his own chair, he turned on the vid and let himself be lost in all the shows he had missed while gone.
Alone in his bed several hours later, he finally had to acknowledge to himself that it was strange being alone. No Bodie next to him, no warm body or steady breathing. No magic fingers and caressing lips.
Fingers and lips. That was all it was. He needed to find another woman to court. He'd forget all about Bodie once he was involved with a woman. A nice woman, not a climber like Ann.
But he couldn't. Legally and morally, he was bound to Bodie at the moment. He could get out of the relationship in a few months, and then...but then he remembered that time had been measured differently while he was in Jump. He lay, arm over his head, working out the calendar in his head, and then he realized he only had a few weeks before he could ask for the separation. And there had been talk of a settlement, too. He could come out of this with quite a savings account.
And a battered heart. First Ann, now Bodie. Neither one a suitable mate, so why waste tears over either of them? Ann was too cold and Bodie was too hot. Somewhere there had to be a woman for him.
It didn't have to be a woman, a small voice reminded him. Bodie had taught him that he could mate with a man. Not that he could imagine bedding any other man except Bodie. In his mind, he envisioned Bodie, the heavily muscled limbs, the soft dark hair, the blue eyes-—distorted by a privacy collar. Strange that his mental image of Bodie contained so much that could not be caught visually. His laugh, the sound of his breath as he labored during love, the scent of his body. Bodie.
But he didn't know Bodie at all, just the person he pretended to be. All he knew was Bond. Bond. His match.
What was Bodie doing now? Still being debriefed? Probably.
How strange life was. He was mad at Bodie, half sure he never wanted to see him again, and yet he was also longing to have him here, wrapped up in his arms. Obviously it would take a long time to clear the man out of his system.
Maybe work was what he needed. He had saved up his leave for so long, and borrowed against the future. If he went back to work now, it would erase a little of the time debt. He had returned five days early, after all. But that would mean facing his fellow Pros right away, having to deal with questions about Ann, about Mars, about what the privacy collar hid. Ann he didn't want to talk about, and he had missed most of the tour of Mars. Missed seeing the longest canyon in the solar system, missed the mountain three times higher than Mt. Everest, and even missed the location of man's first step on Mars. He couldn't talk about sleeping with Bodie, about saving the life of a CI5 agent, about being hurt.
Saving Bodie's life.
Perhaps he should see a professional therapist about the killing. It bothered him. But how could he explain that part of what bothered him was the feeling that the man he had killed had deserved what he got? That Doyle was quite aware that he could do it again in similar circumstances? That whatever saved Bodie's life was justified?
He wasn't as good as he had always thought himself. Perfect little Pro, following the rules, forcing others to follow them as well. Was that what was bothering him?
He finally drifted off to sleep, and he slept late the next morning. It was odd to wake up just in time for the mid-day meal, but he found that after he had showered--enjoying the water as never before after weeks without--he was still tired. He went back to the vids, but they put him to sleep after only a few minutes.
He finally decided not to go back in to work. He didn't want to explain to his co-workers about his face; if he waited the full five days it would be healed enough to cause no comment. Too, he decided to have his vacation. Even if it wasn't on Mars, there were scores of places on this planet he had always wanted to see. He had money from the compensations CI5 had paid, and no good reason not to go.
He picked out a sunny beach, packed a bag and went. The sand, the water, the laughing gulls and dancing breezes cleared his mind and vastly improved his attitude. He did discover that a privacy collar prevented a tan, so although his body turned a golden color, his face remained pale. As his curls turned bronze and he baked in the wonderful fresh air, his strength returned, so that he showed up for work looking and feeling fit. His cheek showed no more than an odd bump, which the doctors had assured him would fade in time, but everyone he met commented on it, some even assuring him that it gave him a rakish air.
The slipwalks were busy, and seemed more crowded than he remembered--but surely nothing had changed much in only a few months? Many of the people who rode his section regularly politely welcomed him back. It was a pleasant, uneventful day. The evening promised to be more lively. His fellow Pros, glad to see him back and willing to use the occasion for a night out, decided to meet at a favorite watering hole. As the event was nominally in his honor, Doyle showed up on time. He was treated to first one drink and then another. Wisely, he paced his alcohol intake. Like everyone else, he had been patched at the door; as long as the plastic square on his hand remained green, he would be allowed to purchase more--when it turned red, he would be refused service.
It was their local, and almost everyone he met knew him. He turned aside questions about his aborted match by dwelling on the trip to Mars; what he had not experienced he made up. Complaints about the artificial gravity were countered with similar ones from anyone who had been off planet, and in the general consensus, few noticed that Doyle was keeping his comments to the minimum.
At the height of the evening, as two acquaintances were singing-- and not well--the new hit song which Doyle had not yet heard, the babble of voices dropped, and then rose markedly. Doyle looked up to see what was happening and froze.
Ann. Ann had entered on the arm of a man twenty years older than she, a man with a scholarly air and a bland face. Ann was talking to the man, giving him her full attention, her lovely face turned up to him with open affection. Doyle was so involved in looking at her face that it took several seconds for something else to catch his attention. Fluttering ribbons. Blue ribbons, one around Ann's bare arm, a matching one around his sleeve.
It wasn't jealousy he felt, but more of a hurt that she had not only replaced him quickly, but rushed into a commitment with the man. He and Ann had a long courtship. Ann had told him often that she felt it very important for a couple to know each other well before taking that important step of promising to match. Much less matching. Ann!
She looked up as if she had heard him mentally say her name, and saw him. Her pale complexion seemed to become measurably paler, and she took a tighter hold on her companion's arm. That man glanced over to see what had caused her reaction. She whispered something to him. At once he seemed to bristle up, and he darted a severe look at Doyle.
Doyle smiled, not at him, but at Ann, which obviously annoyed the man further. A spirit of perversity filled Doyle, and he deliberately made his way over to the couple. He was well aware of eyes on them, of the impolite but not unexpected stares and whispers of speculation.
"Hello, Ann," Doyle said, in a cool, but not unfriendly voice. "I didn't expect to see you. I was under the impression this wasn't your favorite spot. Too noisy, you said, didn't you?"
Ann inclined her head, too intelligent to say anything disparaging about the place in the midst of its most devoted patrons. Instead, she said in her best arctic voice, "Raymond. I don't believe you have met my match, Jeronin Dittentalis. Jeronin is the instructor in Pre-flight Cultures at the Institute of History."
"Jeronin," Doyle said, just a degree less warmly than politeness decreed. "On your match trip, are you? At the Lion? I went to Mars on mine," he said, managing to inject a note of condescending pity into his tone which caused a flare of fire in the other man's eyes. Doyle was feeling both unkind and uninhibited, as well as angry. He let his eyes travel over Ann as if looking her over for the first time. How had he ever thought he was in love with this pale and petty ice maiden?
"We have just returned." the man answered, even though the question had been directed at Ann, "from our match trip. We visited the ruins at Yackor and participated in an archeological investigation into the disposal pits there. We were able to assist in the discovery of several artifacts of historical significance, in addition to...." Dittentalis droned on, but Doyle was no longer listening to him. A grin crept onto his face. A garbage dump! Ann had spent her match trip excavating an ancient garbage pit. It was funny. Ann didn't think so--she was sending him a haughty and unamused glare.
The thought that Ann's match trip had been even worse than his was wonderful. The grin, however, was a mistake, he could see that as he watched her face change with the addition of a vindictive turn of the lip.
Ann smiled too sweetly, at him, and asked "And did you enjoy your trip to Mars, Raymond?"
"Loved every minute of it," Doyle said at once, with a complete disregard for the truth.
"He certainly did. I made sure of it." The deep sexy voice came from behind Doyle. He whirled, fighting to keep his amazement from his face, knowing even before he turned who stood there.
Bodie. Bodie, dressed all in black, drink in hand and...Doyle's gaze fastened on Bodie's face. No privacy collar. No scar! Eyes wide, Doyle drank in his first sight of Bodie's face. Handsome. It struck him, hard, what an incredibly handsome man Bodie was. In a culture where many people elected to improve the face they were born with, where good looks were the rule rather than the exception, Bodie still managed to outshine everyone in the room. His dark hair, pale skin, and midnight blue eyes, above red lips and a tremendously fit body, made a package which drew every eye in the place.
"Oh?" asked Ann, all cool innuendo and sly implication.
"Isn't that right, Sunshine?" Bodie asked, coming up beside Doyle and slinging his free arm over Doyle's shoulders in a casual way. Leaning close so that his lips were just touching Doyle's curls, he added, "As if I'd let you forget!"
"Bo...you!" Doyle shoved Bodie's head away. "Don't you ever get tired of teasing?"
"Not teasing at all," Bodie stated. He looked around. They were definitely the center of attention. "You don't have a full glass, love. Do you want me to get you another?"
"No. I'm done for the evening," Doyle said, glancing at his hand; the patch was still green, and he had to trust that he was not drunk, even though his head was swimming. Bodie's unexpected arrival bad upped his heart rate and given him a flush; he felt hot and had to take a deep breath, and then another. How had Bodie found him here? And why had he come? For just a moment, Doyle wondered if Bodie had somehow used the implant to locate him, but then he dismissed that as paranoid. Any, of his friends or acquaintances knew he favored The Lion. Anyone could have found him with a little effort
But that Bodie had made the effort was still a little hard to absorb. He watched while Bodie finished his own drink off in one long swallow. The pale column of his throat was erotic. Doyle remembered....
"Introduce me," Bodie ordered, looking at Ann.
"Who are you?" Doyle asked, half teasing, but also pointing out to Bodie that he did not know which name to use. They were back from Mars, so was Bodie now using his own name? It would confuse things to introduce Bodie as Bond if he were no longer using the Bond name. But Bond was the name on the match forms.
"Nights of torrid passion, and already he's forgotten. Here's something else you forgot," Bodie said. Putting his glass down on the nearest table, he pulled from his pocket two blue ribbons. Crisp and new, they were the finest texture, satiny smooth and shot through with gold and silver threads. Swiftly, he tied one around Doyle's arm, and then held the other out for the same service from Doyle. Doyle looked into Bodie's eyes, gazed deep inside for the first time, and what he saw there convinced him to take the ribbon and tie it around the hard muscular arm.
A light seemed to shine from within Bodie as he patiently waited for the last knot. Then he turned to the surprised couple before them and said, "William Bodie," he said, introducing himself, and then waiting with perfect politeness as Doyle presented first Ann and then her match.
Doyle made sure to mention where Ann had spent her match trip. It was said as one would to generate conversation, but by the wicked twinkle in Bodie's eye, Doyle knew Bodie found it as ironic and funny as he did. He knew, too, that Bodie was equally unimpressed by Ann's match, who stood, shifting from one foot to the other in discomfort or impatience, his eyes anywhere but on the two men before him.
"Nice as it is to make your acquaintance," Bodie said, after deliberately allowing the silence to become awkward, "Doyle and I have to...retire early tonight." He paused just a bit too long and then added, "Mars was exhausting. Not," he added, "that either of us could tell you much about the place."
Which was true, but not for the reasons Bodie implied.
Ann followed this mutely, not quite hiding a muddled look of irritation and confusion. She kept switching her attention between Bodie and Doyle, as if looking for the answer to a question she didn't at all understand, and scarcely believed. It was obvious she never considered that Doyle would find someone else, or perhaps that she never thought he would choose a mate from his own gender.
"Do tell more," murmured Kirge, the Pro nearest to Doyle and Bodie. Doyle took his attention away from Ann. Kirge's eyes were on Bodie's face in a way which Doyle found annoying. It was flattering, though, to see that Bodie didn't even notice. He was looking at Doyle with both affection and wanting, and when Doyle caught his eye, their gazes locked.
"Ray?" Bodie said softly, reaching out a hand. Doyle extended his own, the warmth of the hard fingers curling around his own causing him to turn up his lips. Bodie didn't pull Doyle towards himself, but allowed Doyle to do the pulling. Doyle found it significant, although he could not say why. They were walking towards the door before Doyle realized how rude it had been to just turn his back on Ann and leave without any formal farewell, yet once he realized what they had done, he found he didn't care. It would suit him just as well never to see Ann again.
"They fixed your face," Doyle said softly as they passed out into the corridor. "I thought they weren't going to do that before the Declaration was judged."
"Yeah, well, they have a lot of new evidence now, including that sample of the weapon you provided, so Cowley decided to make a vid of my face, take a statement, and let them repair me. The doctors did say the longer it went that way, the harder it would be to fix the damage."
"Did they just fix the scar?" Doyle wanted to know.
Bodie turned a look of inquiry his way, and Doyle was so intrigued with the face he almost didn't hear Bodie ask what he meant.
"When they fixed mine," Doyle said, unconsciously lifting a hand to his cheek, "they asked if I wanted any improvements while they were at it. I just wondered if this is what you used to look like, or if you decided on cosmetic adjustment."
"This is the way I looked before. You don't like it? You can look at this face and honestly say you see a need for adjustment?" Bodie teased. But then he looked at Doyle and added, in an oddly humble way, "If you don't like it, I suppose I could make a few changes."
"No. Why waste the time? I'm getting used to it," Doyle assured him, also teasing.
"I was hoping so," Bodie said. "I want you to get very used to it. To me." They reached the slipwalk, and Bodie followed Doyle on, standing closer than he needed to, given the lightness of the crowd at this late hour. Bodie lowered his head so that he could not be heard by the nearest person and whispered, "We're matched. I know it's a short contract, but we have a few weeks left on it. I want to use those few weeks to convince you to make it a permanent arrangement."
They changed directions at the intersection. Bodie said, when he could, "Are we going to your place?"
Doyle realized that he was, indeed, halfway home. That was the best place for a private conversation anyway. "Yes," he said.
"Got any food in? I'm starved."
"You're always starved."
"But will you feed me?" Bodie wanted to know.
"Yes. I'll feed you," Doyle said. "What do you feel like having?"
Bodie flashed his grin, but did not follow up on the opening Doyle had given him. "Anything that doesn't taste like hospital food," he said, and as the memory of what that food was like was still clear to Doyle, he understood perfectly.
"I've got fresh stuff," Doyle said. "Do you like that?" Many people, raised on the fabricated--and cheaper--protein mixes, didn't like raw vegetables and fruits. Vegiforms came in more colors and flavors than natural plants, because so few species survived the Disaster.
"Yes," Bodie said.
"We get off at the next intersection," Doyle said. It was strange to lead the way to his door, to open it and step aside to let Bodie enter first.
"Nice," Bodie said, looking around at the room. It was not overly decorated; a few pieces of sturdy furniture and a bit of sculpture in the corner, with a nice pattern moving across the wall in slow swirls of bright color, was about all there was to see.
"Have a seat. I'll get you something," Doyle said, trying for a casualness he didn't feel. What he did feel was coiling of sexual heat, a desire to take hold of Bodie and.... Food. Have to think about getting Bodie food....
Bodie didn't sit, but followed him to the corner where the kitchen was. "I do want you for my Match, Ray. I want to live with you until the contract is up, try to talk you into extending."
"Here?" Doyle asked, working to keep his voice from revealing how the thought of having Bodie living with him in his home appealed to him. "You'll be off somewhere all the time. Working for Cowley."
"Cowley said while I was at it, I should try to talk you into joining CI5 as well."
Doyle froze, his hand on a dish of carrots. "You talked this over with Cowley."
"Had to. I went in to request some leave. Total leave, with the implant set to respond only to my instruction. Time when no one could listen in on what I was saying or doing. Cowley knew he owed it to me, but he demanded the explanation anyway."
Doyle listened, glad he had a task to do. His hands automatically worked, and he didn't look up, but he didn't miss a single word.
"I know it's going to be hard. There's what you had to do...the killing...to come to terms with, and the job as well. And...women. I'm not what you want, Doyle, but...."
When Bodie did not go on, Doyle prodded him, saying "But?"
"But I love you. I'd try to make the match worth it, for you."
Doyle's hands stilled. "You love me?"
"Yes." Honesty was in Bodie's eyes, when Doyle put down the food and turned to look at him directly. "I know your feelings aren't the same as mine. I'll work to change them."
"Change me," Doyle said, quietly. He had changed a great deal since he met Bodie. He didn't understand all of it, wasn't sure exactly what it meant, but he did know Bodie meant what he said. Bodie loved him. Warmth flowed through him, feelings a little different from any he had ever had before.
"And...accept the things I can't change," Bodie said. "It's okay if I never have your arse. As long as I can have the rest of you."
"Bodie...." Doyle struggled not to let Bodie see how his heart was melting.
"You've already changed me," Bodie said. "I've never fallen in love before. Didn't think I could."
"Never?" Doyle wondered aloud.
"Guess I was waiting for the best, Doyle," Bodie said lightly. Then, more seriously, he asked, "Ray? May I stay?"
Doyle was still for a moment, and then he nodded. "Move your things in tonight, if you like."
Bodie reached out and took the knife and carrot from Doyle's hands, putting them carefully on the counter. "Something else I'd rather do tonight," he confessed, wrapping his arms around Doyle and holding him close.
"Instead of eating?" Doyle teased.
"Before eating, after eating...." Bodie stopped speaking to press his lips to Doyle's in a warm, sweet kiss. Doyle broke their lips apart, breathing hard, the blood roaring through his ears. Bodie's head came down, to rest on his shoulder, his lips tasting at his neck, and for a moment, even the idea of Bodie piercing his body held no terrors.
"Bodie," he whispered, and then tugged them apart so that he could lead the way to the bedroom. They kissed again while standing at the side of the bed, kissed as they shed their clothing. "Bodie?" Doyle said, as they stopped for air.
"What?" Bodie asked, smiling at him. His fingers traced the curve of Doyle's shoulder.
Doyle turned to touch Bodie's fingers with his lips, a brushing kiss, and then looked into his eyes. "I love you, too," he said, rather surprised at himself for saying it, but then he watched surprise and then glorious delight fill those intensely blue eyes, and he knew it had been the right thing to say, knew that it was true. They were only a tiny distance from the edge of the bed. Doyle put his hand on Bodie's chest, feeling the warmth and the faint beat of his heart; gently, he pushed, and Bodie sank down to the bed at once. Doyle stood for a moment, looking his fill at the long pale body, at the strength and beauty of his match. Then, Bodie reached out his hand, took hold of Doyle's fingers, and gave a tiny tug.
They were together at once, desperate for body contact, eager for whatever the other offered. Bodie with Doyle on top of him, moved so that he was caressing Doyle's cock with his tongue, with his hands, and when he judged the moment right, he turned and offered his arse. Doyle was more than willing to take his place behind, to snub his weeping cock to the small place which was spread wide to receive it. He leaned forward. Sweet gravity gave its assistance, and he slid smoothly inside, deeper and deeper until his balls were tight against Bodie's warm skin. His body was singing out with pleasure, with the joy of being accepted by his match. He imagined Bodie inside him this way, and felt himself swell and lengthen at the thought. He only realized he was absolutely still when Bodie thrust back, impaling himself a fraction more, and asked, "Sunshine?" and then, "Ray?"
"Just stopped to appreciate you," he said with suitable gravity, and proceeded to show him just how much.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Lovers 5, Chained-to-the-Typewriter Press, 1993